Of Graven Images and Styles

“Do not put strange gods before me. Neither in my sanctuary, nor ‘mindfully’ in your hearts. My altar is for the worship of the One whose passion and resurrection bought you life, and offers bread for eternity. It is not a place for Yogis, dancing virgins, minstrels nor practicing Buddhists. Good though they be, there is a time, place and an attitude for every thing. My sanctuary is for solemn worship and communion with the Lord who made you. Worship me here in the reenactment and the glorification of the Last Supper and the traditional forms of adoration.”

The globalisation and expansiveness in our consciousness brings us into contact with cultures and people different to those we were accustomed to. The interactions have been mutually fulfilling and enriching. While some are new there are others, that though new to us, date back into antiquity and have evolved independently and in diverse forms. Exclusiveness and inward-looking beliefs are no longer the norm nor a frequent occurrence. In fact, many find the excitement of experimentation irresistible. Oriental ways have always captured the imagination of those with heightened sensibilities. Scholars have studied the languages, religious customs and cultures of other lands. They have translated texts and made them available to the larger population. Thus many have been deeply influenced by what they find novel expressions, of Huxley’s “perineal philosophy”.  Commonalities have been found between “The Koran” and our own Scriptures; a book has been written finding common ground between thoughts of Meister Eckhart and “The Bhagwat Gita”; American ascetics have travelled to sit crossed-legged with Buddhist monks in group meditations. At a consciousness level these interactions have been very enriching.

But. As a humble believer where does this lead me? I can understand that at an intellectual level I find my horizons widened, and it makes me more appreciative of the faith I have inherited from my fathers. But I pause when it comes to transposing such customs into rites and situations they were not intended for. To be fully respectful, to both traditions, we must attribute to each gesture and ritual its original nuances and expression. A gesture or poise of Yoga made before The Blessed Sacrament does not complement the discipline. But, to a traditionalist it is hurtful and it is offensive to the Divine Presence in the tabernacle. Further it’s no more than a superficial folly: to be one day forgotten and relegated to the repository of fashions and passing fancies.

When then we may adopt, adapt, as our Roman forefathers did, we must maintain the      uniqueness of the privileges and graces we received at our baptism. It gives meaning to who we are, some solidity to our foundations, and substance to the hope we claim. The apostles perhaps would not recognize the branch they chose in the way as it extends into our world. But, if we are truly appreciative and grateful to them for bringing to us the Kingdom of God, we must strengthen, not diminish that tradition.