Guest blogger Mantilla Amontillado is the founder of Veritas Vestments. She holds a degree in Ecclesiastical Haberdashery from Salamanca University. She has done the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella three times on horseback and is engaged to the famous matador, Senor Augusto Torquemada
The other day hon, I am going to this conference for priests to set up my table and you know, there is this guy there who is talking to me about the art he does for churches. He is making this abstract art which he thinks is very smart. It is a tabernacle which is stuck into the middle of this large piece of wood which he tells me is supposed to be a tree. Then on top of this tree is some metal. It is supposed to look like a big crown of thorns I think, but it looks more like something he gets out of a junkyard, but he is all excited and tells me that when the light come through the stained glass window which is green it shines on the junkyard stuff so it look like tree leaves. He is telling me that this is like the tree of life, but inside is the tabernacle. Then he asks me what I am thinking, and is waiting there like some kind of eager puppy for me to tell him how smart he is.
So hon, let me tell you, after I finish yawning I say to him, “Look, this is not really what I think of for a tabernacle. Why do you have to be so smart and put it into a tree? I don’t want the tabernacle to look like a tree. I want it to look like a tabernacle. You know what I mean?” But he doesn’t know what I mean so I try to explain, “Look, when I see a tabernacle I just want it to be a tabernacle. It should look like a little house for Jesus but made out of gold. That’s all. Why you want to put Jesus in a tree?” But I can see he thinks I’m stupid and know nothing about art, so I just tell him that I have to go have a pee. That always shuts up stupid men.
Anyway hon, I’m sitting in the bar having a Pink Gin Fizz and I’m thinking about this Jesus in a tree and now I’m getting kind of, you know, angry about it. See it’s like this hon, when you get all clever and creative about a tabernacle what you are doing is drawing attention not to the tabernacle and to Jesus but to yourself. That’s not good. Another thing is that if it is a tree tabernacle, then once you understand the symbol, then that is all it can ever be–just a pretend tree, and its not even a nice tree. If you want a nice tree go into the forest. There they have nice trees. If it is a tabernacle, and just look like a little house for Jesus, then you can see many different meanings. Then it is a true symbol.
So when you see the little house for Jesus all made out of gold you think of heaven which is a place where he go to make many mansions for us. One day will will all have a little gold house to live in with Jesus, but we’re not going to have trees to live in are we? Then I am thinking if it is just a little house for Jesus, then it reminds me of the Ark of the Covenant where the holy bread was kept, and I think of the Blessed Mother who was also the Ark of the Covenant. She was a beautiful little house for Jesus when he live in her womb. Then I am also thinking when I look at the tabernacle of the temple of God in Jerusalem because that is also his house, and I am thinking that I should be a temple of the Holy Spirit and be a beautiful tabernacle for God.
So I am thinking all of this and getting pretty mad at that smart artist guy who think he is so clever for making Jesus live in a tree house. What is this, some kind of Swiss Family Robinson Jesus? No. A tabernacle should look like a tabernacle. A tabernacle doesn’t have to be turned into a symbol. It is already a symbol. This is something you should always remember. This is what I learn when I do my degree in Ecclesiastical Haberdashery at Salamanca: a symbol is a symbol. Don’t put symbols on top of symbols. It’s stupid and even worse, it’s tacky.
Anyway, these kind of artists don’t know nothing about sacred art. All they know is how to be so smart and show everybody how creative they are. The great church artists would spit on them, or maybe just laugh at them.