Saturday, January 4, 2014


Excerpts from the chapter entitled "The Lamp of Sacrifice":

"To fill the thirst of the human heart for the beauty of God's working--to startle its lethargy with the deep and pure agitation of astonishment, are their higher missions."

"Some years ago, in conversation with an artist whose works, perhaps, alone, in the present day, unite perfection of drawing with resplendence of colour, the writer made some inquiry respecting the general means by which this latter quality was most easily to be attained. the reply was as concise as it was comprehensive--'Know what you have to do, and do it' "...

"We treat God with irreverence by banishing Him from our thoughts, not be referring to His will on slight occasions. His is not the finite authority or intelligence which cannot be troubled by small things. There is nothing so small but that we may honour God by asking His guidance of it, or insult Him by taking it into our own hands"...

"I have said for every town: I do not want a marble church for every village; nay, I do not want marble churches at all for their own sake, but for the sake of the spirit that would build them. The church has no need of any visible splendours; her power is independent of them, her purity is in some degree opposed to them. The simplicity of a pastoral sanctuary is lovelier than the majesty of an urban temple; and it may be more than questioned whether, to the people, such majesty has ever been the source of any increase of effective piety; but to the builders it has been, and must ever be. It is not the church we want, but the sacrifice; not the emotion of admiration, but the act of adoration; not the gift, but the giving. And see how much more charity the full understanding of this might admit, among classes of men of naturally opposite feelings; and how much more nobleness in the work. There is no need to offend by importunate, self proclaiming splendour. Your gift may be given in an unpresuming way.  Cut one or two shafts out of a porphyry whose preciousness those only would know who would desire it to be so used; add another month's labour to the undercutting of a few capitals, whose delicacy will not be seen nor loved by one beholder of ten thousand;  see that the simplest masonry of the edifice be perfect and substantial; and to those who regard such things, their witness will be clear and impressive; to those who regard them not, all will at least be inoffensive. But do not think the feeling itself a folly, or the act itself useless. Of what use was that dearly bought water of the well of Bethlehem with which the King of Israel slaked the dust of Adullam? — yet was not thus better than if he had drunk it? Of what use was that passionate act of Christian sacrifice, against which, first uttered by the false tongue, the very objection we would now conquer took a sullen tone for ever? So also let us not ask of what use our offering is to the church: it is at least better for us than if it had been retained for ourselves. It may be better for others also: there is, at any rate, a chance of this; though we must always fearfully and widely shun the thought that the magnificence of the temple can materially add to the efficiency of the worship or to the power of the ministry."

--John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture



  1. Third paragraph - encouraged, convicted, guilty as charged is your's truly.

  2. This kind of dense composition of John Ruskin I find hard to take in . I am reminded of St Therese's comments about spiritual books which were current whilst she was in the Carmel. She found them too complicated and unhelpful. She had to have a Simple Way to ascend to God.


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