What is Hidden Art? In The Hidden Art of Homemaking Edith Schaeffer writes:
Whatever it is, surely art involves creativity and originality. Whatever form art takes, it gives outward expression to what otherwise would remain locked in the mind, unshared. .
It is true that all men are created in the image of God, but Christians are supposed to be conscious of that fact, and being conscious of it should recognize the importance of living artistically, aesthetically, and creatively, as creative creatures of the Creator. If we have been created in the image of an Artist, then we should look for expressions of artistry, and be sensitive to beauty, responsive to what has been created for our appreciation.
I first read this book about eighteen years ago. Eighteen years! I can't believe it was that long ago ..I was expecting son number five,. Had just prayed my very-first-ever-novena. This one to St Gerard Majella, asking for intercession for the gift of another child. I was on bed rest, in a difficult pregnancy healthwise, and although not yet Catholic, I knew the power of prayer.
And the power of beauty.
Into my life came the above book, inspiring one to find Hidden Art in daily life. To appreciate beauty in both work and prayer.
I found beauty in prayer in the Latin Mass, Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Eventually found my way , four years later, to being a Catholic.. as you all know.
Not only did I experience beauty and Truth in the mass, in the prayers, in the beliefs expressed by the words and actions of the mass. I also found beauty in the externals..My senses were filled...and I was drawn into Catholicism by God...my mind, my soul, my heart, my urge for beauty and little bit of the sacred were also satisifed...the candles on the altar, brightly polished candle stands; awe inspiring icons ; reflective art for Stations of the Cross; incense; marble altars with intricate altar cloths; priestly vestments, made with care and detail, colours changing to reflect the liturgical year, donned wth care and prayer..there was nothing ordinary, every day, nothing prosaic in the mass..Every detail was taken care of, to demonstrate and catechize Faith..to inspire..
Because, however, the celebration of the Eucharist, like the entire Liturgy, is carried out through perceptible signs that nourish, strengthen, and express faith, the utmost care must be taken to choose and to arrange those forms and elements set forth by the Church that, in view of the circumstances of the people and the place, will more effectively foster active and full participation and more properly respond to the spiritual needs of the faithful.
General Instruction of the Roman Missal (20)
I have been on a bit of a "liturgy kick " recently. Reminding myself of what is important in liturgy; of why the Holy Mass and its rubrics and celebration is important.
And today I remembered The Hidden Art of Homemaking and its application to the beauty of externals in the Mass.
If we should be sensitive to beauty in daily life, how much more should we be sensitive to beauty in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. To the beauty of the prayers and of the Eucharist. Christ truly being there, for us to receive.
To the beauty of the externals. Like the vestments of the priest.
Vestments? Those garments, worn by the celebrant, deacon, and subdeacon during the celebration of the Eucharist.
These are rich with symbolism; part of their Hidden Art is to remind one of the liturgical year, of the role of the priest, of Christ, of the mass through the centuries, of the sacredness of the liturgy, of the sacredness of the Holy Sacrifice.
The symbolism customary among the liturgists from the ninth to the eleventh century is a moral symbolism, that is the liturgical vestments were made to symbolize the official and priestly virtues of their wearers. In the twelfth century there were added to this the typico-dogmatic symbolism, in which the vestments were expounded in reference to Christ Whose representative is the priest, and soon they symbolized Christ's Incarnation, the two Natures of Christ, the unity and relation to each other of these natures before long, the virtues of Christ, His teaching, and soon, lately, His relations to the Church.
Curious to say the vestments were not made to symbolize Christ's Passion and Death. This last symbolism, which may be called typico-representative, first appeared in the course of the thirteenth century, and quickly became very popular, because it was the most easily expressed and consequently most easily understood by the people. The people interpreted the vestments as symbolizing the instruments of Christ's Passion, as the cloth with which Christ's head was covered (amice), the robe put on him in mockery (alb), the fetters (cincture, maniple), etc., and the priest who was clothed with these was regarded as typifying the suffering Saviour.
The Catholic Encyclopedia
I wasn't aware of any of this, when I, as a non Catholic, attended the Latin Mass. I just knew there was a sense of being apart from the world of every day, of entering into the mysteries of Faith and of Life and Death. I wanted to know more.
I was inspired by the beauty of the whole mass, having all my senses employed, my sense of beauty ignited in a spiritual and physical fashion. By prayers and sacred language.
And I was inspired not by unadorned tables or altars and polyster garments but by the richness of detail and the lavish care given to every detail..even to cloths..and candles..and vessels..and statues..and vestments.