‘… After laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ (Lk 14:29-30)
Our present age has increasingly little interest or regard for the resources of the past. Modern eras tend to be that way. We care about the next smart phone, the next e-book, the next technological breakthrough more than we seem to care about an in-person conversation, a classic tale, or knitting. Secularism, materialism and consumerism all contribute to this departure from the past and tradition.
Even the Church has had a hand in this. For instance, the recent LCWR Conference of women religious spoke much about “making meaning” but little to nothing of “making it” with the stuff of our rich ecclesial past. Many others in the Church today can’t say the word “tradition” without wincing. To still others the Latin Mass for example is the “old Mass”; old, of course, being a bad thing. What these individuals have yet come to understand is that without a high regard for the ancient and historical Mass, there comes about eventually little interest in the Mass itself. A family, a country, a Church without its past is as St. James says – like a man who sees his own face in the mirror and after walking away promptly forgets what he looks like (Ja 1:23).
Here at St. Francis Xavier Parish we try very hard not to forget. The use of relics makes us remember the saints, incense makes us remember the Holy of Holies, male altar servers makes us remember the Last Supper; Eucharistic Adoration makes us remember the Real Presence of Jesus. We believe that we have a duty to remember; a piety for fully living out our belief or else what is this Gift of Holy Spirit for? If we don’t recall our heritage day after day, who else will encourage us to do so?
Hence we have deposited on our bulletin cover for this 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time a work by the Dutch master, Rembrandt, entitled Aristotle with a Bust of Homer (1653). The Dutch Baroque was subdued compared to its Italian and the Spanish expression, but its magnificent use of light emerging from darkness offers a wonderful contemplative experience.
Here is the great Greek philosopher Aristotle presented as a Dutch noble with his hand resting on the head of the Greek epic poet Homer. Aristotle looks back at least three centuries into his past and recalls the literary heritage which raised and educated him. He honors it with his entire posture in quiet reflection. If we can imagine Aristotle just a moment before, with both hands on his hips before he reaches out to touch the bust, it would bespeak a bearing of surprise such as “Well, what do we have here!” Homer was blind, but Aristotle gives him sight; for the past is blind without those in the present to give it vision.
What we see in this image is a discovery of the past. So then, what of us? Was not the rediscovery of our most vital resources the best, intended purpose of Vatican II – a rediscovery of the Church Fathers and the original meaning of our faith and liturgy? Why then do we insist today on looking past our blessed past?
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services