Monday, August 28, 2017

Ecumenism Of Beauty

I have always loved sacred art. There is such beauty in icons, in the structure and architecture of churches and cathedrals, in the stained glass, and even the way the sacristy is designed. All great art should direct us towards the holy, towards the divine mystery. When we enter our sacred spaces, our hearts, minds and souls should all be focused on God, on making us aware of the eternal.

When one sits in the silence and stillness of any church, one is drawn inward and heavenward. The elements around a parishioner should instill a sense of awe and wonder.

Timothy Verdon has edited a book that reminds me of the visual arts in different ecclesiastical traditions: Protestant, Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox. In the preface to the book he quotes Pope Paul VI's words reminding the artist that "this world in which we live needs beauty if it would not fall into despair. Beauty like truth, puts joy in men's hearts and is a precious fruit able to resist the wear of time, able to unite one generation with another, helping them communicate in shared admiration."

Throughout the centuries, artists have done this. Whether it's Andrei Rublev painting his glorious icons or Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel or the stained glass of Matisse. All of their work makes us remember the visible holiness of the Word becoming Flesh, God in man, through Christ Jesus.

This book is filled with beauty and wisdom. It reminds the reader of not only the artistry, but how each Christian tradition brings its own creative vision in representing the tenets of our faith. The language and liturgy of our branches may vary, but at the root and heart of our belief is the Trinity.

Filled with beautiful photographs that capture everything from iconography to modern art, I found myself awestruck by how architects, painters, and sculptors used their craft to glorify God, understanding that their talents were first and foremost a gift from Him to be used to glorify Him.

Along with the beautiful photographs are essays by Verdon and others that remind us on the relationship throughout history of how beauty and ecclesiology have gone together: how the art reflects the theological perspectives of everyone from Calvin to Kontoglou or from churches to abbeys. This really shows the rich artistic heritage that our faith shares and makes me grateful that Timothy Verdon assembled this book as a way of reminding us that art can indeed offer us epiphany, wonder and a desire to worship.

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