Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Naked Christ against the Phallus

It is unfair & offensive to put a phallus or erect penis on an image of Christ, as what was done in a controversial art exhibit at the CCP. Jesus of Nazareth did not develop or acquire a phallic mentality, which pushes males to be “big, hard & up” in their physique, thinking & attitude & which spits at what is “small, soft & down.”

Jesus taught: “unless you change & become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). He also let a desperate non-Jewish woman to broaden radically his view about his mission of being “sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” For his initial inaction to her plea for the healing of her daughter, he offered the “hard” reason that “it is not right to take the children’s bread & toss it to their dogs.”

Jesus listened to & learned from the Canaanite woman's “soft” reasoning that “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall down from their masters’ table” (Mt 15:21-28). He let her broaden or change his mind. This is another important stage in the development of Jesus’ great faith in the heavenly Father who loves especially the downtrodden & little ones among the scattered daughters & sons of God (see also my 03 October 2010 blogpost).

Jesus became the clear opposite of the phallus when he died naked on the cross, stripped of clothes & bare of friends, as “all the disciples deserted him & fled” (Mt 26:56) & only women followers witnessed his death “from a distance” (27:55). The naked Christ on the cross is a historically true picture of the outward impotence of somebody who did not save himself, in order to save others. No wonder Paul wrote, “Christ crucified: a scandal to Jews & folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

While any image of Christ with a phallus is offensive, offended Christians ought to guard against the phallic reaction of self-righteous or arrogant rage against the artist and other blameworthy persons involved.

The exposure of genitals in an artistic work may be meaningful & not crude, vulgar or offensive. For example, an artistic depiction of a totally naked Christ dying or dead on the cross can be authentic & meaningful from the perspectives of history & theology. (See also my 31 March 2010 blog post; your comments are welcome.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Art and the Good News

It would be beneficial to explore the potency of day-to-day art especially of the poor as a method and expression of the integral evangelization and the renewal of catechesis, worship and the social apostolate proposed twenty years ago by the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II).

“In ancestral communities, art has never been split from the flow of daily activities” (Katrin De Guia). Day-to-day art in non-modern, modern & post-modern communities is art from real life. As an activity, it “improves on what it finds” in the local environment such as pebbles, dried leaves and flowers, and scrap wood, metal and cloth, and recycles and transfigures what will otherwise end up as trash or refuse. An example of day-to-day art by a “Filipino culture-bearer” is that of Gregorio ‘Boy’ Masculino (b. 1960) of Oton, Iloilo.

One has to distinguish the “everyday art” of comfortable communities from the day-to-day art of the poor, whose experiences of chaos, violence, hope and joy are not as pure and simple as some comfortable thinkers tend to think they are.
One can make a distinction between art as a product and art as an activity. The first meaning of art, the artwork, reflects in its authenticity or beauty the infinite beauty of God.

The second meaning is the act of creativity in which the artist participates in the creativity of the Spirit of the Divine Artist and cultivates a field of energy where new or deeper relationships, enabled by the same Spirit of fellowship and communion, can be discovered by the artist and his or her “audience.” In “contemporary art,” there has been a “transition from objects to relationships,” and its purpose “is to create a new space-time experience” (Sebastian Elavathingal).
For integral evangelization, inculturation, and catechetical renewal, the potency of the day-to-day art of the poor includes but goes far beyond the functional or practical purpose of helping them appreciate or digest church teachings. (Comments are welcome.)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Jesus' Great Faith

The great faith of Jesus empowered him to walk calmly & cross over troubled waters in his life especially in times when he felt a combination of grief, fear & fatigue. He felt grief & fear when he was told that his former mentor, John the Baptist, a prophet of the heavenly kingdom, was beheaded by the shameless Herod Antipas (Matthew 14:1-13). He felt fatigue after a whole day of healing & feeding the souls and bodies of a crowd of thousands of men, women & children (14:14-21).

“He went up on a mountainside by himself to pray” (14:23). Although he was physically alone in his grief & fatigue, he perceived the presence of the Spirit of the loving Father in the sound of sheer silence as he prayed in solitude.

Similarly, while the prophet Elijah felt his failure, fear & fatigue after he fled from the wrathful & vengeful queen Jezebel, he recognized the very presence of Yhwh not in powerful events like a great storm, an earthquake & then a conflagration but in the sound of sheer silence (1 Kings 19:9-13).
The faith of Jesus, his faith in the Father’s great love for him & for all the weary daughters & sons of God, was tested in moments of grief, fear & fatigue & it was nurtured in moments of prayer. His Spirit of faith & not our own merit saves us from the destructiveness of our sinful passions & addictions.
“We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit itself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26). The sound of sheer silence in prayer is primarily God’s gift & not anybody’s achievement, and thus we ought to be sober and never to be arrogant even toward those who are, or are perceived to be, faithless, sinful, or corrupt.

Jesus, the meek Messiah, learned from an assertive non-Jewish woman, and discovered the inadequacy of his initial understanding of his mission as “sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Mt 15:24). His faith was enriched by the great faith of the Canaanite woman who wanted the healing of her ailing daughter.

May Christ’s Spirit of faith help believers to cross over troubled waters, to guard against arrogance & to be receptive to spiritual enrichment from the “outsider” & the lowly. (See also my 03 October 2010 blog post; your comments are welcome.)