And so, from the recitation of Erasmus’ paraphrases on the Gospel according to John (using them as an evocation of an old tradition of commentary) to the use of more modern sources commenting on religious issues in general, or maybe even on life in general, that is a logical next step for a present-day performer.
The structure of Matins (with its multiple lessons and responsories) provides a unique opportunity to leaf through texts, quoting from books never before used in similar circumstances, using beloved fragments from texts that express feelings that are important to me. It allows me to express views on religion and the world, which would be hard to come up with in a different way (within an artistic project involving gregorian chant, that is).
In a project of a day-long office of the Holy Trinity at the Utrecht Early Music Festival in 2007, for instance, I used fragments of Gianni Vattimo’s ‚Belief’ as lessons throughout the day. These texts, critical of institutionalized religion but in which Vattimo expresses also his adherence to Christian tradition and his preference for a ‘friendly’ concept of God and of the sense of religion (1999: 98), open up our hearts and minds to the essence of religion, possibly living through it again in our imagination as
“…the re-presentation of the core contents of consciousness we had forgotten, put aside, buried in a not quite unconscious realm of our mind, that we may even at times have violently dismissed as an ensemble of childish ideas belonging to other epochs of our lives, perhaps even errors into which we had fallen, from which we should free ourselves.” (21)
The recitation of these texts even allows us to touch upon themes like female priesthood and the taboo of homosexuality.
I stopped going to church when, on the one hand, in the course of my study of philosophy I came across more and more reasons pointing to the untenability of ‘Christian metaphysics’, and when, on the other, at the personal level I tried to live the life of my sentiments free from the neurotic schema of sin and confession. Moreover, how could I belong to a Church that treated me, in its public teaching, as morally despicable, or, if I accepted this title, as a sick person in need of healing, a monstrous brother who must be loved but kept hidden? It is true that the question of homosexuality concerns a specific group of people that remains a minority in the Church. However, for me (as for others, and I am thinking of the way that Pasolini lived his homosexuality) this question has become the key for interpreting all the other superstitions within the Church, and all the forms of social exclusion outside it.” (72-73)
Hendrik Vanden Abeele