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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tom Lehrer's TOB

All books can be indecent books
Though recent books are bolder

For filth, I'm glad to say, is in
The mind of the beholder.

When correctly viewed
Everything is lewd...

Tom Lehrer's famous song has been incorporated into the Theology of the Body lock, stock and barrel.

Theology of the Body "experts" have already turned virtue into vice, turned the Easter candle into a phallic symbol, and called the virginal womb "useless."

Even secular commentators have called this kind of talk balderdash.

Now we are told the baldachin over the altar is reminiscent of the canopy over the marriage bed - and not just by Chris West, but by Jason Evert, of Catholic Answers and Bishop William K. Weigand of Sacramento!

Unfortunately, for everyone involved, the idea is, like its brethren, complete balderdash.

Here is what the Encyclopedia Britannica tells us:

  • dress (in dress (body covering): The Middle East from the 6th century)

    ...cotton, and wool are the norm, but the well-to-do have always worn garments made from rich fabrics with a silk base. Several of the most famous of these materials originated in this area, including baldachin, the richly decorated fabric with a warp of gold thread and a weft of silk, named after the city of Baghdad, and damask, named after Damascus (in Syria), the source of this richly patterned...

  • The Middle East from the 6th century

    The style of costume worn throughout the Middle East has been remarkably constant for centuries. This is partly because it has evolved as one suited to the climate, serving as a protection against heat, dust, and blazing sunshine. The wearing of traditional clothing has also been accepted and supported by many Muslim countries.

    The traditional garments of the Middle East are loose-fitting and cover or even envelop much of the body. The names of these garments vary from country to country, but the similarity between them is clear. Likewise the materials from which they were, and still are, made vary according to what is available. In general, linen, cotton, and wool are the norm, but the well-to-do have always worn garments made from rich fabrics with a silk base. Several of the most famous of these materials originated in this area, including baldachin, the richly decorated fabric with a warp of gold thread and a weft of silk, named after the city of Baghdad, and damask, named after Damascus (in Syria), the source of this richly patterned silk fabric.

    So, the baldachin originally references a style of cloth worn by people as they went about their daily business. No marriage bed, no sex. Nothing of that sort.

    baldachin, also spelled baldachino, or baldaquin, also called ciborium, in architecture, the canopy over an altar or tomb, supported on columns, especially when freestanding and disconnected from any enclosing wall. The term originates from the Spanish baldaquin, an elaborately brocaded material imported from Baghdad that was hung as a canopy over an altar or doorway. Later it came to stand for a freestanding canopy over an altar.

    Early examples of the baldachin are found in Ravenna and Rome. The characteristic form consists of four columns supporting entablatures, which carry miniature colonnades topped by a pyramidal or gabled roof. In Romanesque work, arches generally replaced the entablatures, and gables frequently topped the four sides, as is the case in the Church of San Ambrogio in Milan. Few baldachins of the Gothic period remain, and their use outside Italy seems to have been intermittent; there is, however, a rich Gothic example in the Sainte-Chapelle at Paris (1247-50), reconstructed by Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century. In the Renaissance the use of the baldachin became more common, and during the 17th century elaborate structures were built, probably as a result of the influence of the enormous bronze baldachin that Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed for the altar of St. Peter's in Rome.

    Ahhh... but here we find... it still isn't associated with sex or procreation. It's a cloth that hangs over a door or an altar. It isn't widely used outside Italy, only becomes common in the Renaissance. STILL nothing about sex or procreation. Well, how about...

    canopy, in architecture, a projecting hood or cover suspended over an altar, statue, or niche. It originally symbolized a divine and royal presence and was probably derived from the cosmic audience tent of the Achaemenian kings of Persia. In the Middle Ages it became a symbol of the divine presence in churches. During the 14th and 15th centuries, tombs, statues, and niches were overhung with richly decorated tabernacle work in stone, and these were reflected in delicate spiral wooden canopies over fonts. (Encyclopedia Brittannica)

    Wow, this just isn't getting any better, is it? The canopy or baldachin could go over a niche or a statue as easily as an altar, and it is derived from the royal audience tents of the kings of Persia - not a word about sex or procreation here either.

    With the Renaissance, the canopy placed over the altar developed into the baldachin, a fixed structure supported on pillars that reached its most highly evolved form in the 17th century with Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s great Baroque baldachin over the high altar of St. Peter’s in Rome. Between the mid-16th and 18th centuries canopies were in use for various purposes throughout Europe. Over pulpits in the Protestant countries of western Europe a flat wooden canopy called a sounding board was placed, and great canopies of classical inspiration were erected over important sepulchral monuments. The traditional Jewish wedding ceremony takes place beneath a type of canopy known as a ḥuppa.

    This is downright embarrassing. Not only is it NOT associated with sex or procreation, it is associated with "sepulchral monuments." Necrophilia, anyone?

    Well, then consider the fact that Protestants used it over their pulpits.
    Westians may want to stop here - the reality gets kind of harsh.

    During this period, when Luther's words still rang in everyone's ears, it was well-known amongst Protestants that marriage was NOT a sacrament, NOT a means to grace, it was just a way to legalize the slaking of our lusts. Sex within marriage was still lust, in Luther's eyes, but lust rendered perfectly legal by divine ordinance.

    In short, the last thing a Protestant would associate with the proclamation of the Gospels was anything having to do with sex. Yet they put baldachins over their pulpits!


    Because, throughout history, the baldachin has always signified the presence of royalty.
    The canopy, ciborium and baldachin were used at coronations and in funeral processions to indicate the presence of royalty beneath the cloth.

    But wait, Kellmeyer!
    Wasn't it called a chuppah when it was used in a Jewish wedding ceremony?

    Why, yes!
    Yes, it was!

    (big sigh....) Sadly, that has no sexual connotation either.

    You see, to begin with, the presence of the chuppa is not necessary for the validity of a Jewish marriage. Given that fact, if it represented the marriage bed, its' absence would mean, symbolically, that consummation is not necessary to a Jewish marriage. Whoops.

    What is worse (for the Westians), the chuppah is NOT an ancient tradition - it didn't exist at at the time of Christ, nor did it begin to be used until a thousand years after He rose from the dead.

    Four young men would hold the poles as they escorted the bride, who walked under the huppah, from her home to the synagogue.

    So, if it represents sexual union, someone is going to have to explain how that whole "four young men" bit works out in the typology. Good luck with that.

    And, of course, it gets worse still. You see, in order to be a true chuppah, it has to have open sky directly above it.

    Why open sky? Because the canopy doesn't represent a wedding bed canopy, it represents Abraham's tent in the desert. Abraham was famous for his hospitality. Thus, it reminds the couple of the hospitality the newlyweds now have a duty to show to all who come to their domicile (the chuppah represents their house).

    You see, the newly married couple is supposed to show Abraham's generosity to all, they are supposed to treat all of their guests like royalty...
    Protective devices and markers of sacredness

    Other objects, such as fans, flyswatters, parasols, and standards〞analogous to the symbols of royalty〞often complete the permanent furnishings of sacred places. In addition to their utilitarian role, they are endowed with a sacred character; fans used in Brahmanic and Buddhist cults may be compared to the flabella (※fans§) in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. They are waved before the iconostasis during the Eucharist in the divine liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and they also are placed on either side of the papal chair in solemn processions. The parasol, or umbrella, is generally a symbol of the vault of heaven, as in India and China; the domes of stupas are often surmounted by parasols (chattras). In its symbolic and protective role the umbrella can be compared to the baldachin (canopy) in many of its forms. Whether it covers the altar, the statue or symbol of a deity, or even the imperial throne〞as in Zoroastrian Iran during the Sassanian period (3rd-7th centuries) and Orthodox Byzantium (during the 4th-15th centuries)〞the baldachin's celestial symbolic ornamentation is generally explicit, and its cosmic character is apparent. The standard (dhvaja), in the Brahmanic cults, takes on the appearance of a high column (dhvaja-stambha) erected in front of temples; it is surmounted by a divine effigy, most often that of the sacred steed, or vijrhana, of the god. Simultaneously a signal (because of its height) and a protective device, it first receives the homage of pilgrims. The poles adorned with flags erected before the pylons of the temples of ancient Egypt may also have had such a double character.

    But isn't the marriage bed canopy related to the baldachin?
    Oh, most assuredly it is.
    But neither the baldachin nor the canopy over the bed ever represented sex or procreation.

    You see, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the royal palaces of the various European kings and queens became increasingly public places as more and more people found reason to come in and petition for various favors. As the rooms were opened to the public, the royals found fewer and fewer private places for themselves in the building.

    Near the end, the only private room available was their bedrooms.
    So, they would receive only the most special and favored guests into their "personal space", their bedrooms. In order to show how important and favored the guests were, the royals had baldachins established above the beds. The baldachins were a reminder to everyone who walked in that, even if the person on the bed was reclining, they were all still in the presence of royalty. That's why Marie Antoinette fled from the mob and her bedroom in a fruitless attempt to avoid capture - the room immediately outside her bedroom was where she formally received public visitors, the splendidly ornate bedroom itself was where she received private visitors.

    By the end of the 1700's, with royalty falling out of favor, the commoners started picking up this habit of a royal canopy over the bed, and began creating the same "royal" effect in their own bedrooms, by which time the royalty dropped the whole custom because it had become "common."

    So, no matter where you look or how it was derived, the baldachin, ciborium, canopy, chuppah always represented exactly one thing - the presence of royalty.

    It never had a sexual connotation.

    Well, it never had one until Chris West and company started doing their best Dan Brown imitation and began giving it the symbolic meaning it so long lacked.

    Now, Chris West claims that people who call his work "Theology of the Bawdy" are Manichean heretics because the phrasing isn't sufficiently sexually explicit.

    But what does West call someone who constantly sees sex where it has never been?
    Mr. Lehrer... call your office.


    dcs said...

    The canopy has a practical purpose, too -- which is probably how it got associated with royalty in the first place. Its purpose is to keep whatever is under it clean. That is why, under old liturgical law, if an altar were located under a bedroom (chamber pots and all that), it was supposed to have a canopy over it or a double ceiling. So -- in a sense -- far from recalling a bed, the canopy over the altar serves to separate the altar from the bed.

    Now it could be that a particular baldachino resembles the marriage bed (like West TOB'ers claim about Bernini's high altar in St. Peter's Basilica). But one can't take that and extend it to all canopies in general. There are some that bear absolutely no resemblance to a bed at all (for example, St. John Lateran, the Pope's Cathedral).

    Kevin said...

    He even avoids the polemics. :)

    Actually, this is first-rate stuff.

    Probably why Fr. Loya said "no evidence is neccessary." If he tried, he'd lose.

    Steve Kellmeyer said...

    And, DCS, if there is a resemblance between the two, we should say that the bed resembles the canopy over the altar, not the reverse.

    God is love.
    Love is not God.