Walking Along the Way of Beauty

David (detail), by Michaelangelo

I would like to consider briefly one of these helpful 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 — “the way of beauty” . . . 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, 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 everyday. And a work of art can open the eyes of the mind and heart, urging us upward.

Chartres Cathedral, Paris

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 spirit upward, while at the same time we feel small and yearn to be filled. . . 

Le Roi David/King David, by Marc Cagall

But how many times, paintings or frescoes also, which are the fruit of the artist’s faith — in their forms, in their colors, 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 artists, 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! . . .

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 be light for our neighbor.

— His Holiness Benedict XVI, from On Beauty as a Way to God: Art “Is Like a Door Opened to the Infinite,” General Audience, Castel Gandolfo, August 31. http://www.zenit.org

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This entry was posted in Art, Artists, Beauty, Creativity, Faith, God, Marc Chagall, Meditation, Michaelangelo, Prayer, Soul, Spiritual Life and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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