Splendor Fatigue

hans-holbeing-91067_1280 It seems to me that our culture suffers from splendor fatigue.

There was a time when you could the rich folks from the poor folks by how well their homes were lit (because candles were expensive) and how shiny their table settings were (because the poor used wood or earthenware instead of silver or gold) and how fine and colorful their clothing was (because the poor wore homespun rather than velvet and satin). These things were splendid, magnificent, and glorious precisely because they were rare and out of the way. Nowadays bright colors and fine cloth are everywhere. Silver and gold are not uncommon, and surfaces that shine silver and gold (and other more peculiar shades) are commonplace.

Back in the day a king in his robes and crown was an imposing figure; now he’s simply quaint. The inside of a cathedral was the most magnificent, richly appointed place a peasant was ever likely to see; and the richness and splendor of the images and the altar were a vibrant representation of Heaven, where the streets, they say, are paved with gold. Nowadays we’d say, “Golden streets? How tacky.”

The same thing is true of the older prayers. How many prayers refer to the sweetness of God? Sweetness once was to flavor what gold and a myriad of candles were to light: rare and highly impressive. Nowadays we find such language cloying.

How do we convey the splendor of Heaven when splendor is commonplace?

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photo credit: public domain

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