Llewellyn the ludicrous is the author of most of the articles which relate to Liturgy. He gets under way by assuring us that "The Last Supper was described as a simple meal during which Christ invested ... bread and wine with symbolic significance". And he carries on talking about the 'symbolism'. But the Last Supper was described in the Synoptic Gospels as a Passover Meal, and the Passover was nothing like a Pizza on your knee during the Simpsons. 'Simple' and 'Symbolic' be damned. But I suppose you could say that there have been Protestants who have seen the Supper in purely symbolic terms. So NL is simply opting for one among a variety of differing opinions. Though why the unwary should be bamboozled by his unqualified assertions into thinking that his theological views are objective and uncontroverted fact, I don't see. (Curiously, he goes on to tell us that origin of the word Mass is much disputed. I thought everybody knew ... yes, all that.) But what is unforgivable is his repeated claim that Catholics belief in the Mass is "magic". This is not only mistaken but offensive. Why should a civil servant (well, I presume NL is paid out of public funds) be allowed to insult the largest segment of the world's largest religion? I bet Art Historians would be more careful if it were a matter of giving an account of Islam in an exhibition about Islamic artefacts: and so they should be.
NL appears to know nothing of the history of the eucharistic vestments; he thinks that priests wear chasubles rather than dalmatics simply for practical reasons. But rather than catalogue factual errors, let's have a look at his style. I would describe it as the English of a not-very-bright member of the Lower VIth who is trying to sound clever and important. Even when not just plain wrong, he is off-centre; for example, the word 'host' does not mean sacrifice but sacrificial victim. The Host is not "bread or bread-like" but just plainly bread. An example of his weakness for the verbally grandiose comes in his very unsurefooted account of the Immaculate Conception, where he writes about our Lady's "immaculacy"; but we just don't talk like that, do we? And he is conceptually grandiose too, as when he sees the ablutions at the end of Mass as "a necessary precaution in the in the world of the Baroque, where the forces of good and evil were understood to be playing out an endless competition for power and where holy materials had to be kept from falling into the hands of evil-doers and the forces of darkness". Well, I just thought we treated the crumbs of the Host with such care for the simple workaday reason that when something is so terribly holy, that's the natural thing to do. He surmises that the monstrance contains a lunette as an allusion to the crescent moon beneath the feet of our Lady, so that "The Host partaken of at the eucharist is seen as the body of the redeemer, incarnated and born, miraculously, in the immaculate person of his earthly mother". Stone the crows, guv, I just thought that a narrow crescent was the simplest practical way of propping up a Host in a monstrance. Subconsciously, NL repeatedly slips into treating the Catholic Religion as some obsolete cultural phenomenon that has imaginatively and hypothetically to be reconstructed by clevers like himself. He could have strolled down the road to the Oratory and spoken to Fr Rupert Machardy, who appears in a short video playing in the gallery, so as to check up on what real practicioners of the Catholic Faith who still live this religion in the present day actually really do believe. Curating an exhibition on the Aztecs has to be a matter of inferences from artefacts. But - good heavens - the Oratory House actually adjoins the V & A.
But, Oh No. That's not the way of things with 'experts' in Art History.