Sacrilege

Posted on May 17, 2011

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Surfing Madonna of Encinitas

sac·ri·lege (noun)

1: a technical and not necessarily intrinsically outrageous violation (as improper reception of a sacrament) of what is sacred because consecrated to God.

2: gross irreverence toward a hallowed person, place, or thing

 A few weeks ago, a 10 by 10 foot mosaic of La Virgen de Guadalupe riding a surfboard mysteriously appeared under a bridge in the city of Encinitas (for the story on NPR click here).  Since then it has raised its share of controversy for two big reasons: it was installed illegally; and the religious symbolism in the image.  For the most part, the locals have embraced it, but a few people have complained about religious symbolism on city property.  Because the city was unaware and did not sponsor this installation it is considered graffiti and must eventually be removed.

This blog is not about the politics of local government.  I love street art, but the removal or re-location of the mosaic will not affect my life.  It did, however, get me thinking about the meaning of sacrilege and challenge my stance on modern portrayals of important Catholic figures.  I’ve written before about my opinion of Mexican gangsters using the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe to symbolize their link to Catholicism and Mexican culture.  I was not outraged when I saw the mosaic and I had to step back and ask myself, “why not?”

As a Catholic, I wondered if it was my duty to defend the Virgin’s image and protest the mosaic, even if it was only in a written format.  I wondered if I should be offended or even outraged because, in reality, I wasn’t.  After some reflection I came to the conclusion that an image is only an image and this very topic is covered in Exodus 20: 1-15

And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, …

So, if this mosaic was not created to be worshipped, then my understanding is that it’s all good.  After all, in its most simple form, this image was a work of art created to reflect a love for the ocean and surfing.  It was also created to get attention, which it did, so I think we should see this as it is: a fine work of art.

Through my practice of detachment I have matured a lot in the last few years.  I have also learned to see the world in a more positive light.  Detachment is freedom and  that includes having a clear and rational mind.  I can separate my faith from all worldly things and it is because of my ability to do so that I can also connect to both in a healthy and mindful manner.  There will be no outrage tonight; only a deep breath and a smile.

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Posted in: Modern Life, My Path