Ecclesia de Eucharistia 50

John Paul II contrasts and compares the art of East and West:

50. In this effort to adore the mystery grasped in its ritual and aesthetic dimensions, a certain “competition” has taken place between Christians of the West and the East. How could we not give particular thanks to the Lord for the contributions to Christian art made by the great architectural and artistic works of the Greco-Byzantine tradition and of the whole geographical area marked by Slav culture? In the East, sacred art has preserved a remarkably powerful sense of mystery, which leads artists to see their efforts at creating beauty not simply as an expression of their own talents, but also as a genuine service to the faith. Passing well beyond mere technical skill, they have shown themselves docile and open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Here we have it: the first Slavic pope comes out with it.

The architectural and mosaic splendors of the Christian East and West are a patrimony belonging to all believers; they contain a hope, and even a pledge, of the desired fullness of communion in faith and in celebration. This would presuppose and demand, as in Rublëv’s famous depiction of the Trinity, a profoundly Eucharistic Church in which the presence of the mystery of Christ in the broken bread is as it were immersed in the ineffable unity of the three divine Persons, making of the Church herself an “icon” of the Trinity.

Does John Paul II suggest one derives a deeper Trinitarian expression in Eastern art? What would you in the reading audience say to that?

With this section, we reach a turning point in this chapter on the “dignity of the Eucharistic celebration,” and a caution is offered:

Within this context of an art aimed at expressing, in all its elements, the meaning of the Eucharist in accordance with the Church’s teaching, attention needs to be given to the norms regulating the construction and decor of sacred buildings. As history shows and as I emphasized in my Letter to Artists, the Church has always left ample room for the creativity of artists. But sacred art must be outstanding for its ability to express adequately the mystery grasped in the fullness of the Church’s faith and in accordance with the pastoral guidelines appropriately laid down by competent Authority. This holds true both for the figurative arts and for sacred music.

Competent Church authority must also be grounded in a sound appreciation for the arts. The Holy Spirit does inspire both within and outside of the Church. Many seekers and even non-believers produce great work for the Christian liturgical and spiritual life.

John Paul is absolutely correct that liturgical and devotional art must be open to the mystery of God. But competence to guide this exists not only within the hierarchy, but also with women and men who have achieved a degree of this union of artistic inspiration with theological sensibility.

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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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