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Filtering by Tag: the Eucharist

Beauty and Saving the World

Jean Hoefling

 Fire-Leaves-ArtBeauty will save the world.  - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

In the Orthodox Church, from Easter to the Ascension, an ethereal hymn is sung while the faithful partake of Eucharist. The brief lyrics implore all who will, to receive the Body of Christ, drink of the Fountain of Immortality. Assuming this transformation of bread and wine into God-flesh and fluid to be mystically true, one can only wonder why an earthquake doesn’t rupture the flooring or angels crack the rafters wide as we small and salvaged ones string forward like ducks to water to ingest Life itself. I’m reduced to a whisper as I sing, as the beauty, the “high art” of this hymn enmeshed with Eucharist, incrementally saves me.

My composer friend Don Newby explains that technically, the musical setting of this hymn feels the way it does on the human psyche partly because its composer has introduced suspensions—non-chord tones—into the line of music at strategic places to create tension, which is then each time given over to release. To the emotions and unconscious mind, these suspensions and subsequent releases feel familiar, mirroring human experience with its constant tensions and releases, dejection and joy, wretchedness and nobility. The music reflects life’s troubled splendor.

Yet I wonder, is my perception of the hymn’s beauty subjective, or is there something inherent in this piece, as in any work considered high art, that appeals to a common human urgency, consciously recognized or not, which is longing for unity with God. Given exposure to the “Body of Christ” hymn, would an un-churched teenager immersed from infancy in rap music find his throat constricted too, because the need within him for salvific beauty is the same as mine, who was weaned on Bach and sacrament?

Art theorists suggest that true art must ask the Big Questions, and sometimes seek to answer them. “Art should start a fire,” says artist Wes Hurd. If, as human beings, the thing most needed is inner brokenness made whole, sobriety of spirit wrought from turmoil, shouldn’t that be enough to ignite that fire?

Something Sacred? God in the Things We Eat, Especially Citrus

Aubrey Allison

22 LemonSlicesIII_76x34 Lee Price paints women in private spaces—beds, bathrooms—usually binge eating. A row of ice cream pints along the edge of the bathtub. McDonald’s bags full of fries and burgers spilled on the sheets.

In an interview with The Other Journal, Price says her art deals with “how we give objects of obsession/compulsion (in this case, food) qualities that we should be giving to a higher source (e.g., God or our inner voice). We see food as sacred.”

But in many of her recent paintings, food no longer holds control over the women. They sleep in beds with a serving of sliced peaches beside them. They hold a cup of tea in the bath. In the painting above, “Lemon Slices III,” the subject isn’t even eating. It’s simply the citrus itself in which this woman may be looking for something sacred.

And there is something sacred about citrus.

I moved to Seattle in December and hardly saw the sun. I felt fragile and transient and wanted some kind of comfort, something tangible, a sharp and beautiful detail to emerge from my cloudy anxiety. I called my mom and she told me to go to church, to pray and be in God’s presence. I went to a bakery instead.

I bought myself a “winter fruit tart,” made with slices of sharp citrus that cut through the diffused gray. It was drizzling and I sat in my car, parked on an unfamiliar residential street. The crust crumbled when I bit into the thing.

It was all glazed oranges and grapefruit slices on a puddle of cream. I thought of the way the Eucharist is “fruit of the vine and work of human hands,” and I thought that these bakers working with seasonal fruit were blessed stewards of creation. I thought God must have orchestrated that pastry to comfort me in that moment.

The next day was Sunday, and I went to church to pray and be in God’s presence. I received the Eucharist. The wine tasted sharp and I savored it.