Via Pulchritudinis: The Beauty of the Arts

We move on from the theme of beauty in creation to the second section of Part III to discuss The Beauty of the Arts. We might view this as human participation in the creative capacity of God. An aspect of our species in the sense that it is part of being in the image and likeness of the Creator.

If nature and the cosmos are the expression of the beauty of the Creator and bring us to the threshold of a contemplative silence, artistic creation possesses its own capacity to evoke the ineffable aspects of the mystery of God. The work of art is not “beauty” but its expression, and it possesses an intrinsic character of universality if it obeys the canons, which naturally fluctuate for all art is tied to a culture. Artistic beauty provokes interior emotion, it silently arouses astonishment and leads to an “exit from self,” an ecstasy.

I’m not sure “obedience to canons” is entirely accurate. I think the best artists hold to a certain discipline, keeping to a perceivable structure. A poet composing sonnets infuses her or his art with a certain craft, a careful construction, if you will. Free verse, in comparison, is not wrong. But it works as well when it is faithful to a certain system, even a self-imposed one. And certainly, the root culture is important. But a shrinking world might find more excellent and beautiful art strides across boundaries formerly thought to be inaccessible.

For the believer, beauty transcends the aesthetic and finds its archetype in God. The contemplation of Christ in the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption is the living source from which the Christian artist takes inspiration to speak of the mystery of God and the mystery of man saved in Jesus Christ.

So, the rootedness in the essence of belief and discipleship.

All Christian artwork has such a meaning: it is, by nature, a “symbol”, a reality that refers beyond itself which leads along the path that reveals the meaning, origin and end of our terrestrial journey. Its beauty is characterized by a capacity to move from the interior “for self” to that of the “more than self.” This passage becomes real in Jesus Christ, who is Himself “the way, the truth and the life,” (John 14, 6) the “complete truth.” (John 16, 13)

Another question raised in my thinking: Does art not particularly dedicated to God or Christianity have potential to reveal something of God, of this reality in Jesus? Is it a participation in that “complete truth”?

The full document is here.

Image: the rose window at Notre Dame in Paris, By Zachi Evenor based on File:North rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris, Aug 2010.jpg by Julie Anne Workman – CC BY-SA 2.0,

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Art, evangelization, Via Pulchritudinis. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s