Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sermon by Fr. George Rutler

I'm a huge fan of Fr. George Rutler, Pastor of Our Savior Church in New York City. I try not to miss any episode of his show on EWTN on Tuesday night, Christ in the City. From time to time I'd "sneak" in to the Pastor's Corner on the website of his church, to read his homilies, like the one from Nov.15. It touches on the art of Iconography. Fr. Rutler had an Icon of Christ the Pantocrator (meaning Ruler of the Cosmos, image below), one of my all time favorites, painted (or "written" as preferred by iconographers) in the sanctuary of his church. The same sermon also touched on Communism, the "religion" I was fed as a child and youngster. I quote a few paragraphs -

The iconography in the sanctuary is now completed with figures of Moses and Elijah and two angels worshipping our Saviour. Ken Jan Woo devoted four months to “writing” these images, which are based on the Transfiguration icon of Theophanes the Greek (ca.1330–ca.1410) for a church in Novgorod. Theophanes was a colleague and tutor of Andrei Rublev (1370–1430). The Novgorod icon, which now is in the Tretyakov Gallery of Moscow, suits the transitional Romanesque architecture of our church, and is one of the images particularly admired by Pope Benedict XVI. The angels are of the Sienese school, also representative of the Italian transition from Mediaeval to Renaissance art, just as is our church. Using our local talent, we have been able to glorify God’s House at practically no cost while budgeting more than we ever have for the church’s charitable works.

Our church was dedicated at the most intense time of the Cold War. Parishioners then would have been gratified that those involved in these recent installations are young people who survived Communism. Ken Woo’s family endured the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and families of the workers who braved high scaffolding for these installations lived in Poland in its last years of Marxist control.

I am writing on the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. We in the West, with no experience of the Church’s heroic suffering, may be tempted to take freedom for granted and to be seduced by contemporary dilettantes who disdain Christian culture and even praise figures like Mao and his heirs.

The political philosopher, Leszek Kolakowski, died this summer in Oxford. His father had been killed by the Gestapo during the German occupation of Poland, and he secretly taught himself to read. Having hoped Marxism would change things, he eventually saw through it and was expunged from the Party. He wrote: “Communism was not the crazy fantasy of a few fanatics, nor the result of human stupidity and baseness; it was a real, very real part of the history of the twentieth century, and we cannot understand this history of ours without understanding communism. We cannot get rid of this specter by saying it was just ‘human stupidity,’ or ‘human corruptibility.’ The specter is stronger than the spells we cast on it. It might come back to life.” (emphasis mine)

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