On The Eucharistic Potential of Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Within a few days of each other, I had two friends who traveled to Chicago separately, and were at the Art Institute of Chicago on the same day within hours of each other, and both emailed me that day, to talk about a piece they saw, a piece that moved them. This isn’t that unusual, I spend a lot of time with artists and curators and I spend a lot of time talking about art. Mostly it’s a rarified form of shoptalk, a commentary on how a piece was interesting because of this idea, or that line, or tradition, or how it played into or against a work that had been done before. It’s much like shoptalk about how a liturgy goes, when talking to priests or deacons. Continue reading →
There is no archive without a place of consignation, without a technique of repetition, and without a certain exteriority. No archive without outside. (Derrida, Archive Fever, 11)
For most of us, the archive represents a practical space of investigation, with its contents sitting in darkness, waiting to be reassessed and rediscovered. What’s perhaps less obvious about the archive is its construction, an analogue to the scholar’s privileged cultural position and, along with it, the hermeneutical agenda she brings to her research. Since Derrida’s Archive Fever, the archive has become a important concept for cultural theory and historical methodology. Of course, Derrida wasn’t the first to question the archive’s authority or the ways that history is produced by it. Not simply a site for the preservation of cultural artifacts or a repository of a past authenticity, the archive also names a basic procedure of inclusion and exclusion, a simultaneous remembering and forgetting that proceeds from any attempt to archive. Derrida’s work invites us to consider several crucial outcomes of this process: first and foremost, that a dialectic exists between what gains historical legitimacy through its preservation, and what is condemned to oblivion by being ignored or repressed. The archive always entails some kind of exteriority and for this reason opens up the discussion to theology (the messianic) and psychoanalysis (repression). Secondly, while discussions of the archive have traditionally been driven by questions surrounding the organization of the past, Derrida’s work considers how these ongoing modes of organization orient us toward the future. Continue reading →
Before I begin, I have a confession to make: I’m an addict. I didn’t choose to be, I was born with this addiction. Sometimes I am able to wean myself off of it, if even for a little while, but never for very long—a few hours at most. To be honest, if I were to go without it for much longer then that, I would probably die. Continue reading →
Last year I posted a piece about the darkness of Christmas season; this year I have come to think of its reverse – Easter. I wrote about having to face the darkness as that is where truth resides. I still agree with that sentiment, however, as I was out walking this week I was struck with how difficult it can be to tunnel out of that darkness into a space of light. Continue reading →
In order to arrive at the joy and affirmation of Easter Sunday, we encounter the suffering and despair of Good Friday. It’s not a pleasant thing to acknowledge, but grace and violence appear bound together at Easter.
Few writers are as astute at recognizing this relationship as Flannery O’Connor. Rather than a world of neutral surfaces, O’Connor’s fiction presents us with a world that is irreducibly “grotesque.” For her, the history of the South has made for an environment that is “hardly Christ-centered, [but] is most certainly Christ-haunted” (M&M 44). Her characters may not act like Christians, but theirs is a world which is divinely given, a world in which grace regularly emerges and disrupts. For this reason, O’Connor’s fiction adopts what she has called, “prophetic vision,” a way of seeing that paradoxically understands near things at a distance and far things up close. As she puts it, “The prophet is a realist of distances, and it is this kind of realism that you find in the best modern instances of the grotesque.” This has everything to do with her view that art is incarnational. It is, in other words, ultimately about embodiment rather than abstraction, and its particular kind of embodiment is a deeply mysterious and troubling one. Continue reading →
Night, smoke, bodies, silence, flames, and ashes: these are the words that describe a shattered faith and a murdered God. Seven times Wiesel tells us life after Auschwitz can never be the same, that he shall never forget. Yet the question remains: can we? Or, perhaps more accurately as church leaders, have we? Continue reading →
A few years ago, I was left feeling deeply disturbed and more than a little shocked by a conversation with my brother after he returned from his studies at Canadian Mennonite University. He claimed that it was an “open secret” on campus that a number of his friends had living relatives who had served in the Nazi SS during the years of the Holocaust. I failed to understand how, if this was true, the Mennonite Church I thought I knew could be home to individuals who had most likely committed war crimes. I was even more troubled as I wondered why I had never before heard this topic addressed or discussed in my Mennonite congregation or by the wider denominational body, Mennonite Church Canada. I was left with the feeling that a dark secret was buried behind under the thinly whitewashed walls of our peace church theology. Yet the existence of this secret was confirmed for me only by rumour, through conversations with ethnic Mennonite friends who recalled with discomfort their family members bearing SS tattoos. Continue reading →
He was a seven-year-old, somewhat goofy, charmingly disobedient, painfully cute Bernese mountain dog named Calvin, in recognition of the fact he was an ordination gift from my two best friends in seminary, now both Presbyterian clergymen.
A 10-week-old puppy when we were united, Calvin became almost better known in my first parish than I was, enchanting young and old with equal, slobbery alacrity. When I moved abroad for a year of graduate studies, he moved to the family farm and became as much my mother’s dog as mine. When I returned to Canada and moved to Quebec City, he effortlessly learned to be a canis urbanis. As a single person, Calvin was an especially important part of my life. He was, as the canine stereotype goes, my faithful companion. Continue reading →
The word Catholic is often a word I associate with violence, patriarchy, and old men preaching irrelevant points. I did not grow up in the Catholic Church or even a Christian home, so I am not speaking from years of experience on the ‘inside’; I am however currently situated in a work environment that is a Christian run agency and refugee resettlement office. Although Romero House is open to people of all faiths and is inspired by Christian principles, its internship program and other spiritual activities are heavily influenced by the fact that the Romero House founder and many board members are Catholic (of which there is a nun, a former nun, and a Jesuit priest). On the train ride from Winnipeg to Toronto, I remember reflecting on how I was more afraid to meet the Catholics than I was to meet the refugees; what I have come to know in my time at Romero House, however, is that it is in the living that faith becomes fact. I don’t work for a church, I work for a refugee office so there are some basic distinctions, but I have come to appreciate the underlying framework of Catholicism that shapes the work we do here. I believe that Romero House has opened itself to the idea that catholic means universal. In order to illustrate, I would like to spend some time reflecting on a few examples of how I have come to know this in my experience. Continue reading →