Beauty has been important to the Church throughout its history – in the desire for beautiful churches, artwork, music, vestments, and as a setting for the Holy Mass. But it is unjustly criticized by some as a display of man’s wealth and, in some cases, has been systematically removed from the Church – leaving a tragic void.
Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox are, as this is published, leading a pilgrimage in Italy – a country steeped in history, beauty and art. I, too, have gazed in awe at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel; stood in wonder at the architecture of St. Peter’s Basilica; and been entranced by Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Teresa.
Such beauty transcends words and reaches the depths of my soul, drawing me into contemplation of something higher than myself; opening my heart to the message within the work of art. It is a window that enables me to perceive God in the physical world.
On a local level, I recently had the privilege of viewing the Saint John’s Bible – the first handwritten and illuminated Bible produced by a Benedictine monastery in 500 years.
While the artwork is contemporary, the Saint John’s Bible was created in the tradition of handwritten medieval manuscripts. And, for me, the experience was a meeting of scripture through art. I would have liked to have spent quiet time reflecting on some of the images that seemed to draw me into dialogue.
Beauty is a priceless gift that the Church offers the world. Though we live in a throw away culture, what is truly beautiful lasts the span of time. Art is a tool for evangelization and pivotal in bringing God to secular society.
As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI so eloquently stated,
“Works of art always speak, at least implicitly, of the divine, of the infinite beauty of God…. Sacred images, with their beauty, are also a Gospel proclamation and express the splendor of the Catholic truth….”