Kristeva: The Obscenely [Baroque] Catholic Difference

Kristeva: The Obscenely [Baroque] Catholic Difference July 7, 2013

Bernini's statue of Bl. Ludovica Albertoni puts her best, uhm, forward
Bernini’s Bl. Ludovica Albertoni menaces us by putting her best Baroque forward.

What I love the best about the passage I’m going to quote at length below is how it goes against so many sane opinions.

It should royally tick off the following groups: Baroque haters, techie nerds, entrepreneurs, Trent detractors, modernity boosting Neo-Cons, liberals who still believe in progress, detractors of modernity, some Protestants, Duns Scotus slanderers, and believers who lose their lid whenever they’re preached at by an atheist.

“. . . During the same period, in response to the Protestant Reformation and the humanist breakthrough, Baroque art following the Council of Trent breathes new life into the Catholic experience through the fabulous proliferation of music, painting, literature.  Without denying the suffering, nor leaving out the silence, new languages sublimate plaintiveness, turning it into a kind of serenity ready to bloom with joy.  Doesn’t Ecce homo here arrive at total lucidity in a new ecceistas, that is, in a singularity already foretold by Duns Scotus, but one that is henceforth none other than the singular freedom of creation of European men and women, living though misfortune and wretchedness and initiating a new, a modern universality?  Let–I invite you as my final argument–let the ‘miserere nobis’ of Mozart’s Mass in C Minor resonate in your mind.  ‘Miserere nobis,’ sings the choir, and pain is here refined into complicity, into grace, into glory.

This civilization–from the Christ who inhabits this altar [in Notre Dame de Paris] to Mozart whose renown is worldwide–this civilization, ours, today menaced from from the outside and by our own inability to interpret and renew it, bequeaths us this its subtle triumph over human suffering, transformed, without losing sight of the suffering to death of the divine itself.  It is incumbent on us to take up this heritage once again, to give it meaning, and to develop it in the face of the current explosion of the death drive.

Totalitarian and, in a different, but symmetrical way, the modern automation of the species, claim to put an end to, eradicate, or ignore suffering, the better to force it upon us as means of exploitation or manipulation.  The only alternative to these different forms of barbarism founded on the denial of malaise is to work through distress again and again…”

—Julia Kristeva, This Incredible Need to Believe, p. 97

The statue only lives up to the book.
The statue only lives up to the book.

Now take a look at St. Teresa’s account of her ecstasy:

“In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one’s soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it—even a considerable share.”
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