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Baltimore Sun - - TRUMP TRANSITION - The Rev. John J. Lom­bardi is pas­tor of St. Peter and St. Pa­trick Catholic Churches in West­ern Mary­land.

od is the artist and the uni­verse is his work of art.” — Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274)

If we look closely at those high Mid­dle Ages (roughly 1000-1500), we may dis­cover early fem­i­nists, sa­cred sen­su­al­ists, song­writ­ers of the spheres and holis­tic medicine prac­ti­tion­ers. Wait: didn’t we mod­erns in­vent all this? All these cur­rents were in de­vel­op­ment long ago, and those times we may de­scribe as “dark ages” and peo­ple as “di­nosaurs” may be seen as ad­vanced and sen­sual and holis­tic as we mod­erns are to­day. The “Dark Ages” weren’t so dark, af­ter all.

Those break­throughs of sense and tech­nol­ogy, mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and glob­al­ism are some of the themes of an art ex­hibit I just saw with our church group at the Wal­ters Art Gallery, “Feast for the Senses: Art and Ex­pe­ri­ence in Me­dieval Europe” (through Jan. 8, 2017).

As we cel­e­brate Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas — ver­i­ta­ble ex­pe­ri­ences of sense de­light, gorg­ing of food, ma­te­ri­al­ism and sen­su­al­ism, we can learn some lessons from the me­dieval­ists, both sa­cred and pro­fane.

Do you re­mem­ber, dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, that some Chris­tians were de­scribed as “me­dieval” and stuck to the past? And, as we cel­e­brate our national hol­i­day, “pu­ri­tan­i­cal” is an easy ep­i­thet to­day to use, but weren’t these orig­i­nal Pu­ri­tans voy­agers, sen­su­al­ists, and mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ists as they dined with na­tive Amer­i­can In­di­ans and feasted on rich, or­ganic, var­ied foods?

We modernists some­times ad­mit a debt to his­tory and have say­ings like “the past is pro­logue” and “we stand on the shoul­ders of giants” to pay homage to an­ces­try.

So, did you know, as we learned from our art tour, one of the most com­mented books in the Bi­ble, es­pe­cially dur­ing the Mid­dle Ages, never men­tions the word God, and ex­presses a love poem — “the Song of Songs”? Walt Whit­man and other sen­su­al­ist po­ets can sense seeds here!

Il­lu­mi­nated manuscripts, those dar­ling, small fes­tively dec­o­rated tomes, were the seem­ing iPhones of the day, trans­mit­ting knowl­edge both sa­cred and pro­fane to the il­lit­er­ate and cognoscenti alike, in­for­ma­tion for the masses.

Bells, ring­ing from monas­ter­ies and town halls were the sig­nal­ing tintin­ntab­u­lum for many to work or play or pray, the techno-app for the day.

The French­man, Guil­laume de Machaut (1300-1377), was a pro­gen­i­tor of ars nova, or new art, which was a ground­break­ing move from plain­chant to multi lay­ers of poly­phonic mu­sic and song, and sec­u­lar styles too, which cel­e­brated sen­sual love and ev­ery­day themes. Rap and rock mu­sic may stand on the shoul­ders of me­dieval giants.

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204 ) was an in­ter­na­tional trav­eler and ne­go­tia­tor; a military leader, builder, dec­o­ra­tor and devel­oper of the me­dieval “court of love,” and queen of two coun­tries. Diplo­mats to­day have noth­ing on her.

St. Hilde­gard of Bin­gen, a fash­ion­ista of cur­rent newa­gers, wasa "Jardin d’amour; Lady bathing," a late 15th cen­tury wool ta­pes­try on loan from the Musée de Cluny in Paris, is on ex­hibit at the Wal­ters Art Gallery. coun­selor (and thorn) to popes; ground­break­ing mu­si­cian; herbal­ist, healer and mys­tic — a “Re­nais­sance woman” be­fore the Re­nais­sance came. These days, or­ganic food and smoked tur­keys are in along with “whole medicine.” Me­dieval­ists prac­ticed this in treat­ing the body as a “mini uni­verse” and dis­cerned the dy­namic in­ter­sec­tion of phys­i­cal el­e­ments like south­ern breezes and veg­eta­bles and spices in­ter­min­gling pos­i­tively (or not) with the hu­mors and tem­per­a­ments of the body.

Spir­i­tu­al­ity was sen­su­al­ist, “touchy feely” too, as the wounds of Christ be­came, in the words and a Wal­ters gallery de­scrip­tion, seem­ing semi-erotic events, in­ter­ac­tive por­tals of divine hu­man union. Touch was cen­tral to these me­dieval­ists as in em­brac­ing rosaries with scents to re­mind them of God’s “odor of sanc­tity.” To­day’s some­times ster­il­ized spir­i­tu­al­ity can learn from these “di­nosaurs.”

As we mod­erns trum­pet the lat­est tech­nol­ogy, glob­al­ism and ma­te­ri­al­ism, these me­dieval­ists had some of it go­ing way back then and, of­ten, seem more con­nected to one another, their or­ganic-spir­i­tual selves and their world as we are to­day, some­times stuck in our lit­tle techno-si­los.

When I asked our youth what they liked best about our trip that day, which in­cluded a visit to the beau­ti­ful Basil­ica of the As­sump­tion and a won­drous fes­tive din­ner at a lo­cal pizza shop, they im­me­di­ately said the art ex­hibit. Maybe they are, at heart, like all of us re­ally, sa­cred sen­su­al­ists.

As we cel­e­brate the hol­i­day sea­son we may re­mem­ber Pu­ri­tans and me­dieval­ists as pro­gen­i­tors who pre­saged a way for us to feast to­day, and reach out to oth­ers as those troubadours did long ago.

We modernists all need a lit­tle blast from the past, to help us en­gage in a feast for our senses.

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