We continue with the Pontifical Council for Culture’s reflection on The Luminous Beauty of Christ and its Reflection in Christian Holiness. It may be predictable a curial entity would look to a church subculture close to its circle of friends:
This was the call of John Paul II to the consecrated men and women in the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata: “But it is above all to you, consecrated women and men, that at the end of this Exhortation I appeal with trust: live to the full your dedication to God, so that this world may never be without a ray of divine beauty to lighten the path of human existence. Christians, immersed in the cares and concerns of this world but also called to holiness, need to discover in you purified hearts which in faith ‘see’ God, people docile to the working of the Holy Spirit who resolutely press on in fidelity to the charism of their call and mission.” (n.109) Wherever charity shines forth, the beauty that saves is manifest. There, glory is rendered to the Father, and the unity of the disciples of our beloved Lord grows.
These inspirational women and men do indeed provide a stirring witness. Even better when their charisms are shared with lay people invited to live the qualities established by founders and enhanced through a sustained witness as their followers added individual gifts and cultural distinctiveness as the generations and centuries passed.
Pavel Florenskij, a Russian singer of beauty and martyr of the 20th Century offered this commentary on the Gospel of St Matthew, ch. 5, v. 16. “Your ‘good deeds’ does not really mean ‘good acts’ in the philanthropic and moral sense: tà kalà érga means “beautiful acts”, luminous and harmonious revelations of spiritual personality—above all a luminous face, beautiful of a beauty that lets the interior light of (people) shine forth to the outside. That is when, beaten by this irresistible light, (people) give glory to the celestial Father and His image shines over all the earth.” [P. Florenskij, Les portes royales. Essai sur l’icône, Milan 1999, 50]
This is a good interpretation. The overall commentary on the Sermon on th eMount that appeals to me is the notion that Jesus is preaching as a new Moses to the crowds, and not just his own disciples. This “new Law” is intended to urge people to a deeper, bolder, and holier faith than that of the religious leadership of his day–the “professional disciples” of first century Judaism. Today’s beautiful acts should outshine the best of Christian art and the holiness on offer from clergy and religious. Perhaps we acknowledge the Council’s interpretation of a “new dimension of existence” as we read here:
So the Christian life is called to become, in the force of Grace given by Christ resurrected, an event of susceptible beauty to arouse admiration and reflection and incite conversion. The meeting with Christ and His disciples, in particular Mary His Mother and His witnesses the saints, must always and everywhere have the potential to become an event of beauty, a moment of joy in the discovery of a new dimension of existence, an invitation to put oneself on the road to the Father of Heaven to enjoy the vision of the Complete Truth, the beauty of the Love of God: Beauty is the splendor of the truth and the flowering of Love.
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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60404628