Biblical Imagery? Or Fresh, New Imagery?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,437
    In his 1999 Letter to Artists, Pope John Paul II wrote of the iconic images derived from sacred Scripture:
    Sacred Scripture has thus become a sort of “immense vocabulary” (Paul Claudel) and “iconographic atlas” (Marc Chagall), from which both Christian culture and art have drawn. The Old Testament, read in the light of the New, has provided endless streams of inspiration. From the stories of the Creation and sin, the Flood, the cycle of the Patriarchs, the events of the Exodus to so many other episodes and characters in the history of salvation, the biblical text has fired the imagination of painters, poets, musicians, playwrights and film-makers. A figure like Job, to take but one example, with his searing and ever relevant question of suffering, still arouses an interest which is not just philosophical but literary and artistic as well… In the history of human culture, all of this is a rich chapter of faith and beauty. Believers above all have gained from it in their experience of prayer and Christian living. Indeed for many of them, in times when few could read or write, representations of the Bible were a concrete mode of catechesis.

    The Pope continues:
    And what should we say of the New Testament? From the Nativity to Golgotha, from the Transfiguration to the Resurrection, from the miracles to the teachings of Christ, and on to the events recounted in the Acts of the Apostles or foreseen by the Apocalypse in an eschatological key, on countless occasions the biblical word has become image, music and poetry, evoking the mystery of “the Word made flesh” in the language of art.

    It seems to me that whenever possible, liturgical art should prefer Biblical imagery to new imagery, which is more of the trend nowadays (now). There are two reasons. The first is:biblical imagery is inspired. Biblical imagery belongs to the special revelation, which is not something I can say about my own imaginative life. The second reason: we have always done this.

  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,375
    Well said.
    Thanked by 1Kathy
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,437
    Thank you.

    One of my favorite examples of the use of biblical imagery can be found at #618 of Worship IV, Alabare. Verse 1 begins, "Juan vio el numero de los redimidos, y todos alababan al Senor," which seems to me to draw from Rev. 7:9--although I might be missing a more direct reference.

    How often do we hear anything like that in English? "John beheld the number of the redeemed, and they were all praising the Lord."

    (Sorry, I don't know how to make special characters.)
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    Third reason:

    Biblical imagery is universal. The images of the Bible are the images of mythology, religion, and nature and are common to all people: Light, darkness, kings, shepherds, gold coins, family relationships, the earth and sea, the wind, battles, dragons, fire....

    Sometimes I read modern hymn texts and I think... well that was oddly specific.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,671
    I would agree with the primacy of Scriptural imagery, but not say it is exclusive. I would say that, when discerning whether to introduce new imagery, find the Sciptural ikon in it and clearly but elegantly relate it to that ikon. Also, give the new imagery considerable time (say, at least 5 years, for argument's sake*) and consider how time-bound it might be. Just because something can be published immediately doesn't mean it ought to be. Modern publishing habits subvert a healthy ripening process.

    *"Walk in The Reign" is a model example of a text that aged quickly for lack of ripening.
    Thanked by 2Kathy CHGiffen
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,437
    Sometimes I read modern hymn texts and I think... well that was oddly specific.

    This is a big problem. Sometimes I think, "Wow, this imagery obviously meant a lot to its writer." Biblical imagery is for everyone. It's not oddly specific like
    image
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    And, back to that issue with the word "now"

    image
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,437
    But now, getting back now to that question of overspecification, this is my basic problem in the hymns vs. propers debate. The propers have very few words in them, actually. And every one of them is on point. And every one of them applies to every one of us. Then there's a Psalm, which is also universally applicable.

    But throw in somebody's favorite song, and you've specified the Mass. It's lost its pleasing generality, and with it, freedom.

  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    I agree.
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 876
    Not to mention universality.

    And besides, isn't the Book of Psalms the "official hymnal" of the Church anyways?