Last week I mentioned that good liturgy in “our” Church is marked by a noble simplicity. Some people have asked me: what did I mean by “our” Church.
When I say “our” Church here I mean the “western” Catholic Church (still officially known as the “Latin” Church, although modern languages are used almost all of the time). Liturgical “style” in the “eastern” Churches is very different: it’s descended not from the style of prayer in Rome and western Europe (like ours!) but from the Byzantine and other traditions. As you might suspect, “eastern” liturgy has maintained very different styles of music, art, vesture, church architecture, and prayer-action.
Probably the most well-known aspect of “eastern” Church artwork is the icon: a “flat” painting of Christ, or Mary or some other saint, usually embellished with Greek lettering. Most of the time the expression on the faces in an icon are very vague and, well, mystical. They capture one’s attention in a unique way, and inspire prayer and reflection. To me, an icon’s face often seems sorrowful, although always very, very loving.
There is one icon which is well-known in our area: the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, popularized by the Redemptorists and their novena devotions to Mary under that title. The next time you see that icon in a church, go pray in front of it for a few minutes, and ask yourself “What does the Blessed Virgin seem to be saying to me right now?” as you do so.