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Saint Jean Chrysostome Et Les Spectacles

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image of Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte

Is there an opposition between spectacles and the Church? Such is the question that normally comes to one's mind in reading the diatribes of the Fathers of the Church against spectacles. The subject is thicklish and should be handled with precision and tact, without preconceived prejudice. In examining the passages on the subject in ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, the author has precisely made the attempt to solve the problem. Methodical in his proceedings, he first examines the part, spectacles played in the life of the peoples of A n t i o c h and C o n s t a n t i n o p l e. So engrossed with the love of spectacles had they become, that the only two things, requested from their masters by this frivolous population, were: bread and games! The whole of Antioch, the whole of Constantinople was to be found in the Circus or in the Theatre. On holidays, christians rushed to the hippodrome, with the same ardor as the pagans. Like so many of the Fathers, C h r y s o s t o m , condemned this frequentation, which he considered an apostasy and a return to the idols, one of the greatest enemies of purity and one of the most serious obstacles to his pastoral mission. Seldom does he attack comedies and tragedies, directing his most strenuous efforts against Pantomimes. In latter years, taking up again the same textes, B o s- s u e t fell into regrettable exaggerations. Austere moralist and rigorist, he condemned the theatre without discrimination. In locating the debates, by first giving an historical account of the struggles which divided the Church and the theatre, the author ascertains that nowadays a more charitable and just conception of the spectacle and the artist, dedicating his life thereto, has been reached. The pleasure of the spectacle is innocent in itself and the Catholic Church finds no fault with it: the sole requirement, the Church imposes, being that this pleasure, in its application, be subjected to the principles of christian morals.


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