All posts tagged: beauty

Beauty, Music, and “The Weight of Glory”

Driving home yesterday, I happened to hear a performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E-Minor, Op. 64 on Michiana’s 24-hour classical music station 90.7 FM (the greatest gift our local airwaves have to offer). If you’ve never encountered this piece before, do your soul a favor: take half an hour, turn off all notifications on your phone, click below, and simply listen. If you don’t have that kind of time right now, just take eight minutes and listen to the second movement. Even though the entire work is written such that the movements are to be performed without the traditional breaks in between, you can still gain a sense for the beauty of the whole by listening to this one part. For me, this second movement contains some of the most sublimely beautiful music ever written. It’s not about the technical components of the music—its rhythm and meter and chromaticism and instrumentation—something much deeper is at work here. There’s something about the way this piece is constructed: in its moments of tension and release, of sweetness and …

Cruciform Beauty: Icon and Pattern of Self-Giving Love

Of the many images that have found artistic expression in Christianity, the Crucifixion of Jesus is perhaps the most powerful. Representations of the Annunciation, the Nativity, or the Madonna and Child have the capacity to inspire awe-filled contemplation of the Incarnation; however, few images in these categories can utterly arrest the gaze of the viewer in the same manner as the image of Jesus on the Cross. The image of the Crucifixion in all its awful glory invites and even demands the viewer to pause for a moment to consider the weight of human sin and the depths of divine love that fastened the God-man to the Cross. It is the paradox of the Cross—the mystery that the Son of God dies so that we might have life and remains glorious as God even in his horrific death as man—that has inspired artists for centuries, and each artist in his or her own way must grapple with how they will portray this pivotal moment in human history: does one emphasize the unimaginable physical sufferings of …

Editorial Musings: Does the Church Need the Arts?

Over the last week or so, Church Life has published a series of reviews on the Best Picture Nominees for the Oscars. You can read our reviewers’ takes on Lion,  La La Land, Arrival, Hidden Figures, Fences, and Manchester by the Sea with the rest to follow over the coming days (thanks to Carolyn Pirtle’s untiring work on these reviews). Our yearly reviews of the Oscars always makes us think about the role of the arts in Catholic life. And in our editorial meetings, we often come to the conclusion that there does seem to be a divorce between the arts and Catholic practice, which is deleterious to the life of the Church. New compositions in liturgical music tend to be more focused upon rallying the community around a specific series of beliefs of the composer (whose own musical training is lacking), often inattentive to artistic excellence. Churches and shopping malls continue to have more commonalities than differences, treated simply as gathering spaces in which beige walls and beige carpet cover over the sacred action of the Eucharist. The arts seem only …

Interview w/ Msgr. Timothy Verdon, Canon of Florence Cathedral

As Canon of Florence Cathedral and Director of the Museo Dell’Opera del Duomo, Msgr. Timothy Verdon works with some of the most renowned art in the Church’s cultural heritage. Prolific author and professor of art history for the Stanford University Florence program, Verdon will speak at Notre Dame this Saturday, November 12, on “Imagining Moral Dignity: Christian Art and Physical Beauty,” during the Center for Ethics and Culture’s Fall Conference. Church Life’s Tania M. Geist had the chance, in a former capacity, to speak with Verdon on beauty in sacred art, architecture, and the liturgy. Here we reprint a relevant excerpt from that interview: TG: Your work has been described as focusing on the dynamic bond between the mystery of God, the liturgy of the Church and art in the service of the faith. Could you speak on the relationship among these three? TV: God is infinitely beyond human comprehension—God is God, we are creatures. And yet in everything that the Judeo-Christian tradition tells us about God, it is clear that God wants to communicate with his creatures, God wants to be known …

The Dangerous Art of Becoming

I stopped writing cursive in the sixth grade. If I were to handwrite this sentence for you, you would likely find my penmanship immature, unrefined, and inefficient. Its unwieldy form and bubbly profile—adorned with loopty-loops and fancy curls—would sit fat, proud, and unapologetic upon the page, the way a toddler wears her protruding belly. Such is my cursive, hopelessly stuck in the grasp of my pre-adolescent hand. My painting, ceramic, and clarinet playing skills are also frozen in an earlier time. I have just recently acquired a loom and an easel, though not with any intention of “showing” my work. Suffice it to say, no one would call me an “artist.” And yet, my experience of fashioning retreats for Echo apprentice catechetical leaders over the last eight years has made it impossible for me to consider faith formation without also considering art. “Art is not a thing; it is a way.” —Elbert Hubbard   The art experiences that have become inherent to Echo formation retreats are not a professional cover to explore a personal hobby. …

Preaching Beauty

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. . . . You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. (Augustine, Confessions X: XXVII) As I sat on the bus, the sunshine of the morning sky flickered through the windows. We wound up and up through the hills toward the Golan Heights in upper Galilee. As we bounced and jostled, I realized how deeply early sandbox experiences of the warmth of the sun have impacted my image of God. I also wondered, as we drove north from Nazareth, how the radiance of the sunshine and the tenderness of the early morning breezes impacted Jesus’ youngest images of God his …

Beauty and Theology

Throughout its long history, theology has certainly seemed more comfortable understanding itself through its claim to truth or goodness than to beauty. It is not that the connection between theology and beauty has never been notarized. One simply has to recall the early Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius, and the Dionysian tradition to realize that this is not true—even if beginning with Tertullian and proceeding through the iconoclasm controversy and on to the Reformation, faith in the Cross made it difficult to think of theology and beauty being anything other than bitter rivals, when it came to allure and existential pledge. Of course, throughout the long histories of Catholic, Orthodox, and even Protestant theologies, there have been internal corrections. The Catholic theologian Matthias Scheeben might  represent a correction within the late nineteenth-century form of Neo-Scholasticism, with its forged alliance between propositionalism and moralism. And, of course, in the Reform tradition no theologian showed a greater openness to beauty than Jonathan Edwards, without succumbing in the slightest to the emerging temptation to elevate beauty while essentially dethroning God. Pace …