Materiality in Worship: Redemption of Vision

John Milbank and Catherine Pickstock make a crucial, almost parenthetical point, about materiality and sense in worship

“Aquinas is quite explicit: names stand for ideas in the mind which refers to things, and our minds can only grasp finite things by the mediation of the senses…In other words, the metaphysics of participation in Aquinas is immediately and implicitly a phenomenology of seeing more than one sees, or recognizing the invisible in the visible” (Truth in Aquinas, p. 47)

Milbank later writes,

Or, alternatively, does not the lack of mediation of the divine word by sacred grove, spring, image, altar, and icon lead inevitably to manic claims of direct access to an arbitrary divine voice and so to religious terrorism?

“Alternative Protestantism,” 40

In other words, an iconoclastic worldview flattens ontology, failing to see depth within reality.

David Bentley Hart notes,

“Such thinking confines God and world to a relationship of totality, an oscillation between wealth and impoverishment, ideal and shadow, truth and falsehood, rather than recognizing the world as the free expression of the infinite’s all-embracing abundance of light” (Beauty of the Infinite, p.255).


2 Responses to “Materiality in Worship: Redemption of Vision”

  1. These are good quotes.

    The Iconoclastic heresy not only makes worship boring and senseless, it teaches a deplorable phenomenology and ontological worldview. It makes things to be nothing more than things in-and-of-themselves.

    The worse example of this is making man out to be nothing but a “bag of water,” in scientific speak. We’re not images of Christ our God, but atoms and particles which through eons of chaos and random development evolved into the creatures we now know.

    Iconoclasm has developed in different ways over the years since Muslims famously championed it in the middle ages in their staunch denial of the Incarnation, but the modern Protestants who wield this destructive anti-Christian heresy today are far worse, as wolves among sheep and leading many astray (ironically as the hand maidens of modernity and skepticism).

    Said enough.


  2. tesla1389 Says:

    Speaking of “phenomenology,” one person who really influenced me on icons was Jean-Luc Marion’s *God Without Being.* I don’t agree with much of the book if for no other reason than it is simply unintelligble. But his opening chapter on Icon and Idol was good.

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