Skip to comments.On Beauty as a Way to God
Posted on 09/01/2011 8:37:00 PM PDT by ELS
On Beauty as a Way to God
Art "Is Like a Door Opened to the Infinite"
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 31, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience.
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Dear brothers and sisters,
On several occasions in recent months, I have recalled the need for every Christian to find time for God, for prayer, amidst our many daily activities.The Lord himself offers us many opportunities to remember Him. Today, I would like to consider briefly one of these channels that can lead us to God and also be helpful in our encounter with Him: It is the way of artistic expression, part of that "via pulchritudinis" -- "way of beauty" -- which I have spoken about on many occasions, and which modern man should recover in its most profound meaning.
Perhaps it has happened to you at one time or another -- before a sculpture, a painting, a few verses of poetry or a piece of music -- to have experienced deep emotion, a sense of joy, to have perceived clearly, that is, that before you there stood not only matter -- a piece of marble or bronze, a painted canvas, an ensemble of letters or a combination of sounds -- but something far greater, something that "speaks," something capable of touching the heart, of communicating a message, of elevating the soul.
A work of art is the fruit of the creative capacity of the human person who stands in wonder before the visible reality, who seeks to discover the depths of its meaning and to communicate it through the language of forms, colors and sounds. Art is capable of expressing, and of making visible, man's need to go beyond what he sees; it reveals his thirst and his search for the infinite. Indeed, it is like a door opened to the infinite, [opened] to a beauty and a truth beyond the every day. And a work of art can open the eyes of the mind and heart, urging us upward.
But there are artistic expressions that are true roads to God, the supreme Beauty -- indeed, they are a help [to us] in growing in our relationship with Him in prayer. We are referring to works of art that are born of faith, and that express the faith. We see an example of this whenever we visit a Gothic cathedral: We are ravished by the vertical lines that reach heavenward and draw our gaze and our spirit upward, while at the same time, we feel small and yet yearn to be filled. … Or when we enter a Romanesque church: We are invited quite naturally to recollection and prayer. We perceive that hidden within these splendid edifices is the faith of generations. Or again, when we listen to a piece of sacred music that makes the chords of our heart resound, our soul expands and is helped in turning to God. I remember a concert performance of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach -- in Munich in Bavaria -- conducted by Leonard Bernstein. At the conclusion of the final selection, one of the Cantate, I felt -- not through reasoning, but in the depths of my heart -- that what I had just heard had spoken truth to me, truth about the supreme composer, and it moved me to give thanks to God. Seated next to me was the Lutheran bishop of Munich. I spontaneously said to him: "Whoever has listened to this understands that faith is true" -- and the beauty that irresistibly expresses the presence of God's truth.
But how many times, paintings or frescoes also, which are the fruit of the artist's faith -- in their forms, in their colors, and in their light -- move us to turn our thoughts to God, and increase our desire to draw from the Fount of all beauty. The words of the great artist, Marc Chagall, remain profoundly true -- that for centuries, painters dipped their brushes in that colored alphabet, which is the Bible.
How many times, then, can artistic expression be for us an occasion that reminds us of God, that assists us in our prayer or even in the conversion of our heart! In 1886, the famous French poet, playwright and diplomat Paul Claudel entered the Basilica of Notre Dame in Paris and there felt the presence of God precisely in listening to the singing of the Magnificat during the Christmas Mass. He had not entered the church for reasons of faith; indeed, he entered looking for arguments against Christianity, but instead the grace of God changed his heart.
Dear friends, I invite you to rediscover the importance of this way for prayer, for our living relationship with God. Cities and countries throughout the world house treasures of art that express the faith and call us to a relationship with God. Therefore, may our visits to places of art be not only an occasion for cultural enrichment -- also this -- but may they become, above all, a moment of grace that moves us to strengthen our bond and our conversation with the Lord, [that moves us] to stop and contemplate -- in passing from the simple external reality to the deeper reality expressed -- the ray of beauty that strikes us, that "wounds" us in the intimate recesses of our heart and invites us to ascend to God.
I will end with a prayer from one of the Psalms, Psalm 27: "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple" (Verse 4). Let us hope that the Lord will help us to contemplate His beauty, both in nature as well as in works of art, so that we might be touched by the light of His face, and so also be light for our neighbor. Thank you.
[Translation by Diane Montagna]
[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today, especially those from Scotland and Malta. Today we reflect on the need to draw near to God through the experience and appreciation of artistic beauty. Art is capable of making visible our need to go beyond what we see and it reveals our thirst for infinite beauty, for God. Dear friends, I invite you to be open to beauty and to allow it to move you to prayer and praise of the Lord. May Almighty God bless all of you!
© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
[In Italian, he said:]
Lastly, I address a word of cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the bishops who are friends of the Community of Sant'Edigio, the faithful of the various parishes, who are accompanied by their parish priests, and newlyweds. I hope that this meeting strengthens each of you in a renewed adherence to God, fount of light, of hope and of peace.
[After the prayer:]
Thank you, a good day to you all. Thank you!
[Translation by Diane Montagna]
Please let me know if you want to be on or off this ping list.
He must have read my tagline.
Thank you for posting this message.
The need for beauty in our lives is of Divine origin.
I wish I could tell why it's timing is so Godly that I receive this exact post today. It would blow you away too if I could tell you. I just want to say there is no doubt in my mind that you are definitely doing God's will today.
For me this article is nearly as close as to God coming down from heaven and speaking directly to me regarding something going on in my life. Now he has. Thanks to your post. A million blessings to you and yours.
Glad to be of service. :-) A multitude of blessings back at you.
Thanks for that link. I’m interested in reading it.
This Pope is beyond brilliant! A theological Einstein. No need for anyone else to even try explaining sacred Scripture. Just read the books that BVI has written. They are exceptionally superb. The rest is all sophomoric and pedestrian.
I did check out this link. Thank you and also thank you for the blessings :).
Be warned, very deep reads also but worth the reading.
¨I have this philosophy of goodness. Mathematics should contain goodness. So in the case of the elliptic equation, one might call the equation good if it is parameterized by a modular form. I expect all elliptic equations to be good. It´s a rather crude philosophy but one can always take it as a starting point. Then, of course, I had to develop various technical reasons for the conjecture. I might say that the conjecture stemmed from the philosophy of goodness. Most mathematicians do mathematics from an aesthetic point of view and that philosophy of goodness comes from my aesthetic viewpoint.¨ —Goro Shimura in Simon Singh´s ¨Fermat´s Enigma¨
One cannot have goodness without beauty. Neither, I believe, without God.
At the highest level, Truth, Beauty and Goodness converge.
GOP Poet, thank you for saving me the trouble of typing this out. You expressed perfectly what I have to say to ELS. God is talking to us today and using ELS to spread the Word. I'm so grateful--this is exactly and precisely what was needed to set me on a path of reading and discovery for what I'm working on. Amazing how He answers our prayer requests for help and direction!
Thank you so much for your post. What a fantastic reminder too that God's got lots to go around :-D. What an abundant, beautiful, and awesome God! Thanks again and I am truly touched to find out how this really spoke to you as well. Truly. Have a great weekend!