Art without Idolatry

  • November 29, -0001
Happy St. Bilfrith's Day. Today large sectors of the American public, including a good many of the followers of Jesus Christ, are keeping close tabs on the progress toward the naming of the newest "American Idol." Thousands of young people have auditioned, and every week the panel of experts - household names all - keep whittling away the dross to get at the real deal, America's next big recording star.

But who will remember any of these people or their accomplishments in just a few short years? It is the nature of pop culture to flare up and flare out just in time for the next flare up, the next idol, the next nobody. Consider, on the other hand, the art that has survived from the period of Celtic Christianity. Those glorious illuminated Gospels, magnificent carved crosses, unforgettable verses, and spectacular liturgical vessels. The art of the Celtic Christian period remains among the greatest aesthetic achievements of the history of Christianity. But the truly amazing thing is, that for all that beautiful, powerful, amazing artistry, we know almost nothing of the artists who created it. In fact, the names of only three of the craftsman of this period have survived, and two of them only because of the testimony of others, not because they signed their work.

Celtic Christian artists devoted themselves and their work to the glory of God. They had no interest in the acclaim of others or securing big contracts for their next piece. Their art, like their hearts and lives, were wholly consecrated to God. Their work abides and will be around long after this season's American Idol - and all the idols of contemporary pop culture - have flared out. Their work testifies to the abiding grandeur of the Gospel, whereas the fleeting fame of the idols of pop art