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  • Writer's pictureArthur Bruso

Communion & Community

Wall with religious pictures hanging on it and some leaning against it.
Communion & Community installation view.

The 2021-22 Curious Matter Holiday Installation

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20

I DON’T WANT to hesitantly tap my elbow to yours in greeting. But I will. And I do. And I’m glad you’re here. What I’d rather do is throw my arms around you and kiss each cheek. We’ve been isolated for too long, distant for too long. Perhaps, in the past, we imagined ourselves a bit misanthropic, claiming a preference for a good book to a get-together. But absence has revealed just how vital the planned, impromptu, casual, or grand, small, or large gathering is to our well-being.

While the later part of 2021 found us attending more events and seeing more full faces, the return to humans being with humans in an open physical manner has remained tentative and has progressed in fits and starts due to viral variants. And so, we reopen Curious Matter for our annual holiday installation with both delicacy and an optimistic view towards ever increasing in person activities.

As has been our tradition, we draw from our collection of household devotions to create our installation. The collection is comprised of colorful lithographs, hand-stitched sacred hearts, crosses, bibles, prayer cards and beads, icons, and every other type of item meant to adorn and instruct a pious Roman Catholic home. For us, these items are the visual language we learned as children. They remain a fascination and have lost none of their wonder. We’ve embraced the sentimental and kitsch, the bloody, and the beautiful. We hold onto these depictions of love, loss, devotion as representations that transcend their religious roots. We certainly don’t negate those associations—we honor them. Yet, we do so with a deep awareness of institutional failings and our own ever-evolving spirituality. We attempt, through these devotions, to identify a universal message, one that transcends doctrine and speaks to our most generous shared impulses and aspirations.

News of the day has inspired and informed our holiday themes these past few years and this year is no different. We have decided to meditate on communion and community. It is what we wish to nurture following this long fallow period. The Gospel of Matthew defines a community as two or three gathered with a common cause. And so, it is. This has been the common theme of both religious and secular groups throughout human history. Humans evolved as social beings. This group need has been the key to our biological success and the success of our civilizations. Nothing humanity has achieved has been without the help of others. We endeavor to create utopian communities where we can cooperate and share. We communicate our ideas and experiences to find fellowship with one another. We enjoy varied friendships, unions, and alliances as ways of strengthening interpersonal bonds.

Christians believe that Jesus chose twelve people to follow him and to learn His ideas of community. Through the Lord’s Prayer, He showed them how to communicate with the Spirit wherein the faithful ask for forgiveness of our human failings but also give thanks for all the abundance that has been provided and allows us to continue. With the Last Supper, he demonstrated how to worship in the new faith he was proposing. He chose the form of a community meal because it was the most intimate of social acts. To share food and eat in fellowship reinforces our shared bonds. It allows us to distribute abundance in alliance. It became the basis of the Catholic Mass where believers gather in community for spiritual sustenance and communion. We eat and we talk. We give thanks for what is being offered, the bread and the wine. We are nourished and we feel our closeness growing.

Our installation is comprised of a selection of prints that spoke to us of communion and community. Among them, two large prints of cathedrals symbolize our gathering in a common community. A lithograph of the Last Supper provides us with a version of the origin of the Catholic Communion as well as the conviviality of a shared communion between intimates. A choral hymn page for when we raise our voices in praise or song for the entertainment of our friends and family where the shared delight of music draws us all closer. The grouping itself is the very essence of community, illustrating our need for gathering together in harmony. The meaning of each individual piece comes through, while together the installation reveals a visual cohesion and broaches the mystery of our shared being.

Following these last two years, communion with community is what we most want and need. It is what, in our enforced social distancing, we have been lacking. This absence has been acute and missed. We are humble and thankful this holiday season to acknowledge and honor this need and welcome it back into our lives. We hope to see you, in person, soon.



© 2021 Curious Matter

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