Built of Living Stones 142: The Role of Religious Art

The Catechism, the Constitution on the Liturgy, and Pope Paul VI lead off this initial reflection on the role of religious art:

§ 142 § In the Christian community’s place of prayer, art evokes and glorifies “the transcendent mystery of God—the surpassing invisible beauty of truth and love visible in Christ.”(CCC 2502; cf. CCC 1156-1162; SC 122) Therefore the “Church entrusts art with a mediating role, analogous, we might say, to the role of the priest or, perhaps better, to that of Jacob’s ladder descending and ascending. Art is meant to bring the divine to the human world, to the level of the senses, then, from the spiritual insight gained through the senses and the stirring of the emotions, to raise the human world to God, to his inexpressible kingdom of mystery, beauty, and life.”(Pope Paul VI, Address to the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Art in Italy (December 17, 1969) (DOL 540, no. 4324).

Here is the citation references from Sacrosanctum Concilium: “The fine arts are considered to rank among the noblest expressions of human genius. This judgment applies especially to religious art and to its highest achievement, which is sacred art. By their very nature, both of the latter are oriented to God’s boundless beauty, for this is the reality which these human efforts are trying to express in some way. To the extent that these works aim exclusively at turning (our) thoughts to God persuasively and devoutly, they are dedicated to the cause of His greater honor and glory.”

What do you think of artist as priest? I know the reference of Jacob’s ladder, but I feel at a loss as to the connection attempted here. What do you think?

All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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