Built of Living Stones 161-163: Materials of the Artist

John Paul II leads off today’s reflection:

§ 161 § Artists bridge the worlds of the visible and the mysterious invisible. They focus upon items with specific shapes, sizes, weights, densities, colors, forms, and textures. At the same time, they utilize materials that struggle to express ideas and concepts, visions, and imaginative constructions. Even as they nourish the senses with beauty, they also disclose the “transcendent value” and the “aura of mystery” in the Christian message.(Letter to Artists 12)

We’ve got to take a close look at his letter, don’t you think?

§ 162 § Artists choose materials with integrity because they will endure from generation to generation, because they are noble enough for holy actions, and because they express what is most respected and beautiful in the lives and cultures of the community. Materials, colors, shapes, and designs that are of short-lived popularity are unworthy. In addition to eliminating unsuitable materials, artists and communities should be cautious and discerning about promoting features closely identified with the values and attitudes of any class, ethnic, or age group to the exclusion of others in the community.

The reflection on endurance and nobility are important. Depending on your parish, it might yet need to embrace this principle, or it may have done so two generations ago. The embrace of endurance and nobility often operates independently of the progressive/conservative track. Before BLS, an intentional community, one already committed to quality and beauty in liturgy, will likely have addressed this in its works of art.

§ 163 § Similarly, artworks consisting of technological and interactive media, such as video and other electronically fabricated images, may also be appropriate for sacred purposes. Subject to the same criteria of suitability as other sacred art, technologically produced works of art can point toward sacred realities even though they do not possess the more enduring form, color, texture, weight, and density found in more traditional sacred art.

As for technological fabrication, I would say proceed with caution. Simple video and audio are likely not enough to bear the weight of mystery. It will surely have to be something deeper, something creative of the medium itself, and not just a reproduction of an attractive image or sound. That would be a false presentation, in my opinion. Unworthy of liturgy, however well done it might be.

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

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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