March 04, 2021 3 min read
Unfortunately, the present time is marked, not only by negative
elements in the social and economic sphere, but also by a weakening of
hope, by a certain lack of confidence in human relationships, which
gives rise to increasing signs of resignation, aggression and despair.
The world in which we live runs the risk of being altered beyond
recognition because of unwise human actions which, instead of
cultivating its beauty, unscrupulously exploit its resources for the
advantage of a few and not infrequently disfigure the marvels of nature.
What is capable of restoring enthusiasm and confidence, what can
encourage the human spirit to rediscover its path, to raise its eyes to
the horizon, to dream of a life worthy of its vocation – if not beauty?
Dear friends, as artists you know well that the experience of beauty,
beauty that is authentic, not merely transient or artificial, is by no
means a supplementary or secondary factor in our search for meaning and
happiness; the experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on
the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of
our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it
radiant and beautiful.
Dostoevsky's words that I am about to quote are bold and paradoxical,
but they invite reflection. He says this: "Man can live without science,
he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live,
because there would no longer be anything to do to the world. The whole
secret is here, the whole of history is here." The painter Georges
Braque echoes this sentiment: "Art is meant to disturb, science
reassures." Beauty pulls us up short, but in so doing it reminds us of
our final destiny, it sets us back on our path, fills us with new hope,
gives us the courage to live to the full the unique gift of life. The
quest for beauty that I am describing here is clearly not about escaping
into the irrational or into mere aestheticism.
Too often, though, the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and
deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead
of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true
freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and
further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy. It is a seductive
but hypocritical beauty that rekindles desire, the will to power, to
possess, and to dominate others, it is a beauty which soon turns into
its opposite, taking on the guise of indecency, transgression or
gratuitous provocation. Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning
of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards
the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty
touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then
we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound
meaning of our existence, the Mystery of which we are part; from this
Mystery we can draw fullness, happiness, the passion to engage with it
Simone Weil wrote in this regard: "In all that awakens within us the
pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of
God. There is a kind of incarnation of God in the world, of which beauty
is the sign. Beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is
possible. For this reason all art of the first order is, by its nature,
religious." Hermann Hesse makes the point even more graphically: "Art
means: revealing God in everything that exists."
Saint Augustine, who fell in love with beauty and sang its praises,
wrote these words as he reflected on man's ultimate destiny, commenting
almost ante litteram on the Judgement scene before your eyes today:
"Therefore we are to see a certain vision, my brethren, that no eye has
seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived: a vision surpassing
all earthly beauty, whether it be that of gold and silver, woods and
fields, sea and sky, sun and moon, or stars and angels. The reason is
this: it is the source of all other beauty" (In 1 Ioannis, 4:5).
My wish for all of you, dear artists, is that you may carry this vision in your
eyes, in your hands, and in your heart, that it may bring you joy and
continue to inspire your fine works. From my heart I bless you and, like
Paul VI, I greet you with a single word: arrivederci!
MEETING WITH ARTISTS
HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Saturday, 21 November 2009
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