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Evangelising through beauty

Beauty is one of the main values in today’s contemporary society. Beauty features prominently in television, pop culture and, especially, advertising.

The Church has to humbly acknowledge the importance of propagating her life-giving message through beauty. In an ever de-Christianised society which resists the Church’s truth and moral norms, inspired as they are from God’s word, it would be wise that as a community of faith the Church would highly emphasise the crucial language of beauty.

Beauty gives us a healthy ‘shock’ that takes us out of ourselves. It adorns us with wings to soar up to the transcendent. It opens us up to the wonderful experience of the infinite beauty. Commenting on the theological background of the Romanesque to the Gothic architecture during a weekly audience in 2009, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said:

“Gothic cathedrals show a synthesis of faith and art harmoniously expressed in the fascinating universal language of beauty which still elicits wonder today. By the introduction of vaults with pointed arches supported by robust pillars, it was possible to increase their height considerably. The upward thrust was intended as an invitation to prayer and at the same time was itself a prayer. Thus the Gothic cathedral intended to express in its architectural lines the soul’s longing for God.”

It is important that we, as a Church, ask the pertinent question: in what way are we catering for this soul’s longing for God in our parishes, schools, and dioceses? Are we really offering the faithful moments where they can meet the Beautiful One? How many Catholics are having a life-changing experience from the way liturgy is conducted in our churches? In other words, what are we doing to attract people to meet their God?

In the document entitled The Via Pulchritudinis, Priveleged Pathway for Evangelisation and Dialogue the Pontifical Council for Culture proposes three areas through which beauty is to be fostered.

Beauty gives us a healthy ‘shock’ that takes us out of ourselves. It adorns us with wings to soar up to the transcendent

First, through creation. Take the example of Saint John Paul II when he led his students on outdoor hikes and catechised them, celebrating the Eucharist and got to know them as persons.

Second, through the arts. This involves offering beautiful liturgies and forming the faithful to evaluate great art.

Third, beauty is to be met by encountering Christ himself. Let us not forget what Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily at the Mass for the inauguration of his pontificate on April 24, 2005:

“There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him. The task of the shepherd, the task of the fisher of men, can often seem wearisome. But it is beautiful and wonderful, because it is truly a service to joy, to God’s joy which longs to break into the world.”

For that matter the testimony of the saints is an excellent way of concretising what Pope Benedict said. In his address after the screening the film Art and Faith – Via Pulchritudinis, in 2012, the German Pope said:

“Yet, the beauty of Christian life is even more effective than art and imagery in the communication of the Gospel message.

“In the end, love alone is worthy of faith, and proves credible. The lives of the saints and martyrs demonstrate a singular beauty which fascinates and attracts, because a Christian life lived in fullness speaks without words.

“We need men and women whose lives are eloquent, and who know how to proclaim the Gospel with clarity and courage, with transparency of action, and with the joyful passion of charity.”

While it is important that our liturgies are to be well prepared and rendered in a way that would attract people to participate at their best, it is essential that they are cemented by the attitudes of Christ of those who lead and participate in them.

We need to espouse Christ’s salvific beauty, namely, that “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8).

Servanthood, humility and obedience to the Father’s will attract others to Jesus Christ and beautify the Church since they resurrect her with Christ, her founder.

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