Worship and its practices occupy a central place in every religious tradition, from Christianity and Judaism to Buddhism and Hinduism. Understanding aesthetics in religion requires paying attention to the role of the human body and its artistry in devotional acts, such as the use of paintings and sculptures as aids to prayer and meditative practices. Artistic means are employed in communal worshiping traditions; sacred rituals involve artistic expressions such as dance, song, poetry, story, images, and symbolic acts. This article examines artistry and aesthetics in modern and postmodern liturgy and worship practices of the world’s religious traditions. It first looks at scholarly sources that provide evidence on the aesthetic dimensions of liturgy. It then discusses the history of worship, whether communal or individual, in a cultural context, along with the concept of worship as verbal and non-verbal performance. It also considers the “art” of leading a worshiping community and concludes with a discussion of improvisation in religious worship.
Mia M. Mochizuki
Understanding iconoclasm simply as the breaking of images fails to adequately address why reformers of all eras have sought to decapitate, maim, and otherwise erase sacred art. This chapter takes a long view of iconoclasm as the active interrogation of objects by objects—through case studies from ancient, medieval, and reformation art to today’s contemporary crises—to consider the power of religious art from the frankly object-centered perspective of “applied criticism,” censorship, and renunciation. Following a chronological overview of the many historical iconoclasms, it weighs the issues at stake through the lens of close looking, before closing with a range of objects whose hammer’s inflections intimate the potency of a methodology premised on fertile absence. Interpretation via the matrix of lack, fragility, and mystery is the proposition iconoclasm tenders whenever art and religion intersect.