Follow on Twitter

Friday, 9 August 2013

From the Banal to the Sublime

The Banal: On the road to Nerôche. The upper sign got me thinking about The Beatitudes, the lower had me reaching for divine correction fluid.

There's nothing like an encounter with the wretchedly profane to take the edge off the day. Trudging through rural Wessex I'd assumed (though God knows why) that aberrations such as that illustrated above would be at worst few and far between, at best non-existent. Fortunately I came across the invitation to deviate (pun intented) to the 'Swingrite' (sic) Golf Centre only five minutes into the walk, a few kilometres later any lingering malevolent thoughts were dispersed by an unexpected vision in St Mary's Church in the equally exquisite village of Stoke St Mary.
Patrick Reyntien's three stained-glass windows, commissioned for the millenium, are not the sort of stained-glass windows one expects to find in an ancient English country church, which makes them all the more remarkable and welcome. Even more interesting are the features of the Virgin Mary, so often depicted as a passive pale-skinned mannequin who's strayed from the Miss Anglo-Saxon catwalk. A Virgin memorably described by the late Marcella Althaus-Reid as an 'Indecent Virgin’, a ‘rich, white woman who does not walk’.
Reyntien's Virgin immediately reminded me of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a mixed-race mestizo Virgin brimming who is at once erotic and liberating. She also got me thinking of María Inés de la Cruz's conception of the Virgin as Our Lady of the Clenched Fist: 'I am Our Lady of the Servants and the Slaves. And the Mother of the Dispossessed'. A Virgin who has 'come to spare you from the bony fingers of the dead, and the bloody hands of the tyrants’, who is like a 'constellation descending from on high, only her beauty is beyond all that. A woman of all colours, of no single moment in history or time'.
The experience reminded me of a meeting with a charismatic Scottish nun, Madre Barbara, in El Salvador, many years ago. Over a glass of Coca-Cola she remarked ‘You and I being here, Siân, it’s a miracle, of sorts’. It was, indeed; an encounter somewhere in the blurry, knotted landscape that’s halfway between the sacred and the profane.

The Sublime

The Annunciation: one of three Partick Reyntiens stained glass windows in the church at Stoke St Mary. The others depict St Anne with her husband teaching the Virgin Mary to read and the Day of Pentecost.

Marcella Althaus-Reid: Indecent Theology: Theological Perversions in Sex, Gender and Politics, Routledge (2000)

María Inés de la Cruz: Our Lady of the Clenched Fist, Libertad (2003)

No comments:

Post a Comment