The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

thousand faced

with one comment

And here we are, Christmas.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I like a good religious tableau, which is odd, as I believe in nothing. Literally, “nothing.” As in the void, emptiness, and entropy. Call me a nihilist if you will, or a strict materialist – but if I can’t burn it, break it, or prove it empirically – it ain’t. Others cling to their own beliefs, and luckily many are inspired to create art to express these ideations and fantasies. Pictured above, a carved wooden nativity display observed at a church on Manhattan’s Houston Street shortly following a tense discussion with my landlord last year.

I may not believe in anything beyond dissolution (and Superman, of course), but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate someone else’s set of ideas made manifest.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Saint Irene’s in Astoria displays the Orthodox splendors for which the Greek church is renowned. As the perennial outsider, I’ve always observed that a primary difference in the graphic stylings of Orthodox and Catholic Churches is in the depiction of the god head itself. The Latins prefer to focus on the final stages of the passion, depicting the Christ during or after the scourging offered by the Romans. Catholic Jesus is moments away from death, covered in wounds, and suffering. The Greeks seem to focus in on Christ in the mold of a “hero” in the classical sense – well muscled, tough and triumphant, a spiritual Spartan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan, which is one of the most glorious interior spaces to be found anywhere on that accursed island. This shot is actually from their Irish language St. Patrick’s Day mass, which I’m mentioning simply because anyone who grew up Catholic will be able to spot the costuming on their prelates as being seasonably inappropriate. I get in trouble with the religious types all the time when I refer to the pulpit as the stage, the robes as costumes, and ask about what the script calls for.

This betrays me, as it becomes fairly obvious to all that I regard visiting a church in the same manner as I do a theater. Saying that, just because I don’t believe in what you do doesn’t make me right and you wrong, it just means we differ. I’d like to believe that everybody else out there would afford others the same courtesy, but the front pages of newspapers and the interiors of history books indicate that such a belief is a foolish but inherently American sort of idea.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

St. Andrew’s at Printers Square in Lower Manhattan, just behind the courthouse, has a spectacular pieta on display in its dimly lit chapel. This is an example of what I was saying about the “suffering Christ” iconography which seems to be preferred by the Catholic side of the great schism.

I really enjoy photographing churches and ritual spaces, incidentally, and should anyone reading this be in a position to invite me in to one for a couple of hours – I’d love to come by with the tripod and my other gear and record the scene if you can “get me in.”

As always, however, like a Vampire I need to be invited in to do my work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, what do Jews, Mohammadans, Buddhists, Daoists, Agnostics, Atheists, Nihilists, and the Hindus do on Christmas Eve? Short answer involves Chinese food, and bars. There’ll be someplace open to go tilt back a few and play some pool, discuss the issues of the day, and avoid the seasonal holidays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Merry Christmas, from this, your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

One Response

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  1. Nice distinction between the depiction of Jesus in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox iconography.

    Have you ever been to the Chuang Yen Monastey up in Putnam County? It’s one of my favorite places to visit. If you decide to have a look-see go before the end of the year because it closes for visitation from January 1 to March 31. Highly recommended.;_ylt=A0LEVz3ZN3xWCS0AOwZXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEyN2RpcXU4BGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjEzMjRfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=Chuan+Yen+Monastery&fr=mcafee

    georgetheatheist . . . Om

    December 24, 2015 at 1:30 pm

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