The Urban Desert
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:26 AM [+]
Dawn, in a very timely fashion, sent me this LA times story about the Monk who is attending to the icons (and what not) at the Getty. Turns out he's an American convert, and while I might have liked to have met him, as crowded as it was I rather think it would have been fruitless. Especially if he was enjoying "rock star" status...must be a miserable thing for a monk.
The exhibit was fascinating and beautiful, but I found myself lamenting the fact that it was just that: an exhibit. The Getty entitled the exhibit: "Holy Image, Hallowed Ground" and it seemed to me they rather lacked the latter. Not that the icons did not in their own way hallow the ground or speak to those who let them, but it just seemed odd to be there seeing these marvelous works of a living religious tradition in what was an art museum. While I may venerate the icons, the person crowding it beside me was an art student taking notes about the methodology of the "artist."
It is a good thing the Monk was there to perhaps help to communicate that these things are far more than a matter of historical appreciation. When students come to an Orthodox service to study us, at least we have them more on our terms...there is - are at least ought to be - no question that they are seeing a living breathing and vibrant faith. But the icons were displayed, in a way, on THEIR terms. Art as opposed to a living religious life. I give credit to the Getty, they must have relied heavily on the help of Monks or other Orthodox people to write their lengthy captions.
By the same token, I kept feeling myself struggle to REALLY appreciate the Icons....to perhaps even try and pray before them. It was difficult with all the activity going on around me - though I don't know how hard I really tried, or perhaps even wanted to try. See, don't get me wrong, I am not trying to paint myself as being highly spiritual here (if I were, I suppose I would lie and say I was able to fall into each and every icon despite the noise and crowding around me) I just would have liked to be able to really MEET these saints. I'm not sure if I am making sense. I suppose it was as much my own fault...really, what isn't?
Suffice to say, to have met these icons in their "natural" habitat (or even in a local cathedral) would have been so much more like having the "Hallowed Ground."
Many of the icons I recognized (e.g. The Ladder of Divine Ascent and the one of St. Peter - see above), and the ancient Chalice (imprinted with the words: "Thine own of thine own") I've seen in numerous works including the cover of Fr. Schmemann's book on "The Eucharist". It was amazing to see it in person.
Who knows, perhaps people will be moved to wonder more about Orthodoxy having seen this exhibit. I hope so. Our faith being relegated by some (perhaps many) to little more than an intriguing museum irks me (you all know this). I wonder what role we play in this perception? What can I do to assure the people around me that this is a vibrant faith?
I suppose walking away with such internal reflections is not a bad thing...perhaps the saints spoke to me after all?
It really was nice...
And I wonder how many people who read the article (including the author?) will realize that Sinaites is not a last name, but simply the name of his monastery? ::sigh:: Modern culture doesn't get monks...