Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pope Benedict on Faith, Art, Beauty and the Liturgy

Following his recent catecheses about medieval theology, the Holy Father dedicated his catechesis at today's general audience to the Christian art of the Middle Ages, particularly in its architectural aspect manifested in the great Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals. Pope Benedict emphasised two elements of the art of that epoch which are useful to us today: First, this art is íncomprehensible without the religious spirit which inspired it, leading to an encounter of faith, in particular in the liturgy, and art which creates a profound synthesis, making visible the Invisible. This is the theme the Holy Father wants to share with the artists which he is going to encounter this coming 21 November. Second, the via pulchritudinis, the way of beauty, is a privileged and fascinating path to draw closer to the Mystery of God. Until an English translation of the whole catechesis becomes available, here is the Pope's summary in English:

My dear brothers and sisters,

I have been speaking in recent weeks about medieval theology, and would now like to turn my attention to how the Christian faith of the Middle Ages inspired some of the greatest works of art of all time: the cathedrals of Europe. Romanesque cathedrals are distinctive for their size and for introducing to churches beautiful sculpture, including the image of Christ as the Universal Judge and the Gate of Heaven. By entering through Him, as it were, the faithful enter a space and even a time different from everyday life, somewhere they can anticipate eternal life through their participation in the liturgy. Gradually, Gothic architecture replaced the Romanesque, adding height and luminosity to the previous style. The Gothic cathedral translates the aspirations of the soul into architectural lines, and is a synthesis between faith, art and beauty which still raises our hearts and minds to God today. When faith encounters art, in particular in the liturgy, a profound synthesis is created, making visible the Invisible, and the two great architectural styles of the Middle Ages demonstrate how beauty is a powerful means to draw us closer to the Mystery of God. May the Lord help us to rediscover that "way of beauty", surely one of the best ways to know and to love Almighty God.

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