Haines’ glib comment about history triggers a vivid and complex set of associations for Stephen, all turning around questions of what it means to be an artist or an intellectual within the rigid doctrine of the church–or what it takes to get kicked out as a heretic–and what the consequences of those oppositions are in the longer context of history.
The “Symbol of the Apostles” is the twelve stars here, as Rob has them, but is also another way of referring to the Apostle’s Creed. In Giovanni Palestrina’s mass for Pope Marcellus (Missa Papae Marcelli), it sounded like this . Impressive background music. Important in context, however, are the stories around this work. During Palestrina’s lifetime, the Church disputed whether polyphony was appropriate for sacred music. If you have listened to Palestrina’s work (and you should), you can imagine that he was a big fan of polyphony. The Mass for Pope Marcellus was presented to Pope Pius IV in 1564 as an example of how effective polyphony could be in sacred music, and the Pope approved. It’s not hard to imagine that Joyce might have felt some kinship with Palestrina as an artistic trailblazer, one managing many voices at the same time.
But behind Palestrina’s Mass, perhaps ironically, is the great enforcer of church doctrine, the archangel Michael. Stephen imagines him chasing out the heretics like Arius, Valentine, and Sabellius, with whom he also surely identifies. It seems history is to blame for them too.
Beyond the issues brought up by the content and associations of Stephen’s thought, it’s useful to also take a step back and see what’s happening here as a window into Stephen’s nascent creative process. What Stephen is experiencing is a lot like what his author called an “epiphany,” and moments like it will continue to turn up through this book.