The truth is beautiful and the true and beautiful go together:
beauty is the seal of truth.
– Pope Benedict XVI, February 2013
In 2009, inside the beautiful Sistine Chapel, Pope Benedict gave a speech to those in the arts with a simple, straightforward message:
“Dear Artists, You Are the Custodians of Beauty”
Twelve years ago I sat on a concrete step under the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and stared . . . for an hour and a half.
Hundreds of people mulled about, talking, pointing, examining, and exclaiming in wonder. My husband, ten year-old daughter and I sat in stunned silence.
I wiped tears from my eyes and could only stutter to speak as my whole body vibrated in the presence of such overwhelming beauty.
Later, we entered St. Peter’s Basilica and experienced the indescribable beauty of Michelangelo’s Pietà.
Appreciation began to turn to confusion.
I am not Catholic, and I had heard many voices over the years criticize and reject the “ostentatious” and “too ornate” nature of the Catholic church’s cathedrals and art. I had been influenced to believe that being too “showy” was wrong. That “real” faith was supposed to be unobtrusive, plain-loving . . . and most of all . . .quiet.
I walked under the magnificent rotunda, where I finally succumbed to the force of the beauty that surrounded me. With tears running down my face I looked up into that beauty, divinely inspired and wrought with human hands, and begged God to explain it to me.
“Why, why God, do you need all this? What am I supposed to think about all this ornate-ness? Surely, it can’t be your desire that we focus on such things!”
His immediate response to my spirit was firm and loud: “Do not despise the worship of my people.”
To create beauty is an act of worship.
We were created to create it. To worship. To speak loudly and ornately and even obtrusively of the beauty of God.
We are, as Pope Benedict said, the custodians of beauty:
You are the custodians of beauty: thanks to your talent, you have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement. Be grateful, then, for the gifts you have received and be fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty, to communicate in and through beauty! Through your art, you yourselves are to be heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity! And do not be afraid to approach the first and last source of beauty, to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history towards infinite Beauty!
Faith takes nothing away from your genius or your art: on the contrary, it exalts them and nourishes them, it encourages them to cross the threshold and to contemplate with fascination and emotion the ultimate and definitive goal, the sun that does not set, the sun that illumines this present moment and makes it beautiful.
Farewell Pope Benedict, and thank you for preaching the message of beauty to the world.
May there be more preachers of this beauty among us.
More Faces of Beauty:
- Lygon Stevens
- Embracing the Gift of our Days
©2013 Linda Crawford