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Benedict on Beauty

The Virgin of the Rocks.jpg Pope Benedict XVI yesterday repeated his invitation to experience God through the "via pulchritudinis" or "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 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.

Benedict then turns to works of art that are inspired by, and reciprocally inspire, faith: Gothic cathedrals, Romanesque churches, sacred music, paintings, frescos, etc. He identifies an appreciation - a true, deeply felt appreciation - of beauty as a "way of prayer."   

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.

It's always worthwhile to be reminded of beauty and it's effects upon the soul. I find it in "The Virgin of the Rocks" and The Iliad. Peter Schramm finds it in Shakespeare and motorcycles. Wherever she finds you, follow her, for "beauty is life when life unveils her holy face."

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Discussions - 2 Comments

One of the best posts that I've read on NLT! A brilliant examination of the beauty of art and the eternal, and fine sparse commentary to complement it. The Pope continues to stand as a voice of truth in all of its wondrous forms.

Part of today's argument in class: how do you know what is good or beautiful? It happens to be a class of high school-getting-college-credit who are typically rabbits all semester. The response was a blank stare from each.

The bold girl raised her hand, "Someone tells you what is good."

So I asked questions talked for a long time and brought them around to considering what things might move the human heart and why. You can imagine what I said. Finally, I gave them permission to pass judgment and have opinions.

Of course, it left me a little depressed and thinking. If all things are relative and there are no absolutes, then everything is beautiful and good and therefore nothing is. I thought, maybe we need God to know beauty.

Then I read this and wonder how to give my students a sense of the profound meaning that modern man should recover. I am not allowed to talk to them about God. Maybe I'll push Aristotle harder than usual with this group.

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