marzo 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

every day.

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!




Sistine Chapel

Saturday, 21 November 2009

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