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Required reading in Catholic aesthetics25 Oct. 2007
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If "ressourcement" means anything to you or if you believe the liturgical reforms of Vatican II have yet to be interpreted correctly, then this book is a must-read. The title is deceptively narrow in focus. 13th century France is merely the prism through which Male presents a full-bodied liturgical and apostolic sensibility, and thereby reveals the shallowness of modern Western Catholicism's de facto attitudes towards its historically cosmic and incarnational vision.
The book reminds us that liturgy, and the aesthetic vision it instills in its participants, is the heart of all social and religious life. Its impairment can only lead to a devolution of morale up and down its ranks. As they say, "without vision the people perish," and that's exactly what's happening in the "modernized" Catholic Church. Moreover, Male's book demonstrates that not just any vision will do. The current instinct among Catholic parishes to follow the lead of evangelical megachurches or liberal mainline Protestants only further slices into Catholic authenticity at its heels. A 13th century Catholic France is thus of far greater relevance to the Church today than anything that the modern West can offer. In case we forget, it really should matter that the Catholic Church is 10x older than the USA. So why do we continue to privilege American cultural fads over the treasure trove of Catholicism? Historical amnesia, which one of consumerist America's most effective OTC drugs. Male's book is a welcome salve for our decimated collective memory.
Thanks to Dover for reprinting this classic at a Dover price without compromising on illustrations, which is one-fourth the price of the Westview edition!