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Monday, January 31, 2011

Truth and Beauty

I would be remiss if I did not direct you to one of the most truthful posts about beauty you could ever read in the modern blogosphere:

Beauty makes the soul soar and it's as essential to the spirit as food and water is to the body. Yet it's mocked as sentimentality. Foolishness. It's wiped out of churches and removed from school curriculums. Even art school's favor is with modern art and beauty is turned into profanity.
On any given day I am not overly exposed to beauty. I sit in traffic each morning staring at grey asphalt, then I ride through treeless streets lined with ugly buildings and spend the remainder of my day in a cube. I imagine most people go through these typical mundanities daily and my day is not unlike the majority.
It used to be churches were where regular people could experience that overwhelming awe inspiring spiritual soaring. Churches used to make the soul sing for God. Beauty in the Church is essential. I don't want God brought down from the Heavens and made "relatable" to me. I want to carried up to Christ so I can meet Him there and be in awe surrounded by beauty.
People often justify their ugly little parishes by saying they don't believe in wasting money for garnishments, money that could serve the poor. Little do they realize that their bleak and barren churches are spiritually depriving the poor, starving their very souls. Denying them the one place where their senses should be swimming in beauty, the refuge from the ugly harsh world. The Church.
Beauty picks up where words leave off. It breaks my hurt every time I step into a white washed church devoid of beauty and love. I am reminded of an interaction between two small children I met in a library several years ago. They hungered for beauty like a baby hungers for milk. This is our instinct. God intended us to enjoy beauty, that is why He gave us the ability to create. To deny beauty is to deny God.

Read this short treatise on Beauty and Truth from the beginning, for it is only 2-3 short paragraphs longer than that which I have written here. And I omitted some of it to ensure that if I quiz you, you'll be able to identify it.

Read it and nod, and then...and then.....



Jose said...

I couldnt agree more with this. It's sad what modern Churches look like. Don't get me wrong. I agree that the MOST important part of a Church is the community, not the building. But I think of the old Spanish Church my parents got married in and I feel that we just might be missing out. Still, with a little effort beauty can be found in our daily life. To me, the most common and necessary beauty is Music. No matter how rough the day, a nice long walk with my iPod will lift me back to sanity. In my Spiritual Inexperience, the joy I feel during a good song is the closest I have come yet to Contemplation.
A second place I have learned to see beauty and awe is in the night sky. I recently got a pretty decent telescope. You can see faint galaxies with this thing...Nothing lifts my mind to God like looking through that lense and seeing a smudge that I know is a BILLION stars so far away that that is all that can be seen. The Vastness of the Universe sings of God's glory.

Faith said...

I like both. I like the ornate Gothic Cathedrals, and I also like the simple monastic abbey.

Adoro said...

Jose ~ You say that "the MOST important part of a Church is community"...except...that it isn't.

The most important part of the Church is God, and worship of God. We don't gather every Sunday (and every day, actually) for US, but in united worship of OUR LORD who is truly present in the Eucharist, and always present in the Tabernacle.

That is why our Church buildings must be beautiful...they house Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The King of Kings.

And yes, God is everywhere, in all the truest beauty of the the stars, in nature...that is part of what led me back Home, too!

Faith ~ I visited the Cistercians on a discernment retreat, and loved them. I was used to statues and icons and stained glass, but their spirituality strips those things, for the most part. It doesn't make things ugly, but rather is pure simplicity proper to their monastic Vocation. That simplicity is beautiful. It had to grow on me, but...I still love it, even as I recognize that it is not what I am called to be.

The cool thing about the Cistercians is that they continue to recognize true beauty at the most minimal degree...

Mark said...

It's easy to confuse Cistercian austerity and simplicity with the blandness and minimalism of much modern architecture and liturgy. In fact, I think the two things are poles apart.

A church (and the liturgy that is celebrated within it) is the place where earth and heaven meet - a place where we participate in the liturgy of heaven, surrounded by God's angels and saints.

Art, music and architecture which constantly remind us of this invisible yet very powerful reality are significant not just aesthetically but also (and much more importantly) theologically.

The Cistercian way seeks to express these truths in a distinctive style.

Modern liturgy, art, music and architecture, on the other hand, can often appear to reflect a fundamentally different kind of theology, in which the vertical dimension (the union of heaven and earth, of God and man) is dissolved in the horizontal dimension (the celebration of community; the expression of "being church"...).

Adoro said...

Mark ~ Thanks you stated that well. That's what I meant, of course!

There is a parish in my diocese that tried to go back to it's Benedictine roots, first not understanding that a monastic style is for the monastery, not a parish Church. Then their idea of monastic simplicity was confused with modern day minimalism - and that is the most disturbing, butt-ugly parish I've ever been in! I still have nightmares....