Easter came and went - and no ponderous blogpost, no melancholy musings? No humble contribution to the training of Google’s algorithms in the meaning of Easter for post-religious humanists?
Well, maybe it’s just wise to keep some mysteries off line? Unless, on the contrary, we should make sure that, amidst the billions of frivolous words & pictures that are continuously uploaded to the Internet, we also add our very own fleeting fragments? Feed our own morsels to that ever growing corpus of data which only an artificial intelligence can still digest.
Meanwhile, off line, I’m grateful for the very tangible exhibition of old (1130-1600) Netherlandish sculptures in the Louvain Museum.
The still & solid presence of these sculptures and reliefs appeases me - their (relative permanence) & companionship : how many people have stood before them, meditating, seeking & finding solace?
A sculptured group of a swooning Maria under the cross, held by a commiserating John ( #compassion).
A relief of a seated, mourning Maria, surrounded by pictures of her sufferings (#7sorrows).
I am also grateful for the very real voices & instruments of the Minimes Chapel Choir & Orchestra , singing and playing every month that divine music which is surely far better than us, poor sinners. Bach’s music in the Castle of Heaven, il Divino Claudio (Monteverdi) (#sacredmusic), ....
So yes, as a post-religious humanist I am profoundly grateful for sacred art and music: invented-sculpted-composed- sung & played by human beings – incorporating (and perhaps even assuaging) our longings for transcendence. In fact I’ve often wondered whether this sublime art could only have been created thanks to true religious faith, a real belief in the possibility of transcendence?
But humanist appreciation of sacred art, however sincere & devoted, is not necessarily welcomed by true believers.
Think of the notices in churches sternly admonishing visiting art lovers that "a church is not a museum".
Or take for example the sad fact that, after 35 years of performing Bach Cantata’s in the Church of the Minimes, the Minimes Chapel Choir & Orchestra was compelled to look for another home (which thank god they found in the church Saint Jacques sur Coudenberg), because the Minimes Church authorities wanted to give priority to the Cult – dismissing the Bach cantata’s as "mere culture".
The previous Minimes Parish priest, Abbé Van der Biest (who passed away in May 2016), an ardent Bach lover himself , would surely have disagreed. So, at the last concert in the Minimes church , as a tribute and out of sheer human piety, the passage from Bach’s Magnificat that Abbé Van der Biest loved best, was sung.
And while the music soared upwards, the whole congregation of music lovers rose and listened devoutly (#devotion).