August 31, 2011

A doorway to the infinite

Pope Benedict XVI,  in his Wednesday audience today, spoke about experiencing God through works of Art.  The full text is not available yet but Catholic New Service posted excerpts of his remarks. The Pope said, "Art is like an open doorway to the infinite, toward a beauty and truth that go beyond everyday reality." I have always felt this way about art. Back in July, I commented on the Pope's address to artists.  The Church has always been a patron of the arts, and as an artist I am encouraged in my craft by the Pope's words.  After reading the Pope's address in July, I mentioned that I was going to pick up my brushes again. After a ten year hiatius, I found that my former way of painting was too stiff and that I was a bit too realistic for my current liking.  Urged on by my son, himself an artist and craftsman, I decided to get a bit more creative with my old unfinished dogwoods.  I was also encouraged by a book recommended by Elizabeth Scalia over at The Anchoress. The book, The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom by Christine Valters Paintner, caught my interest because she blends Benedictine spirituality with the practice of one's craft, perfect for an artist who is also an oblate.  I have only just begun reading it, but already I feel it will inspire me to keep on with my painting, and I will have plenty of time to do that while recovering from my upcoming surgery.

The Pope, when refering to art, includes not only the graphic arts but music, writing and dance as well.  I humbly admit that I am involved in the first two of those artistic endeavors, and while I was in the modern dance club in college, my dancing now is limited to the occasional wedding or dinner dance. Music is one of my favorite but lately neglected passions. Next to the study of theology, I love music. I have a favorite quote of Martin Luther who said,
"I am strongly persuaded that after theology, there is no art that can be place on a level with music, for besides theology, music is the only art capable of affording peace and joy to the heart."
Luther had a lot to do with introducing vernacular hymns into the liturgy for he knew the spiritual power of song, and many time honored and beautiful hymns were composed by Lutherans.  Perhaps music can become one of the vehicles for reconciliation and hopefully someday unity. 

Song of Songs III by Marc Chagall
The beauty and the "theology" of art extends beyond creedal differences. This was made clear in the Pope's reflections when he praised the work of Marc Chagall and Bach.  These artists, through graphic art and music respectively, were able to lift the mind and heart to God. Many other non-Cathoic artists have done the same. Even those artists that whose subjects or themes are not religious, can through the beauty of their work, draw their viewers into meditating on the beauty of the Almighty. The Orthodox refer to icons and theology in color.  Good art, especially religious art, can also be theology in color, in notes, in words, in movement and in drama. It can tell a story, but can also can "open the mind's eye and one's heart, pushing us upward."

I look forward to reading the complete text as soon as it is available, and to continue to produce art for the glory of God.

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