POPE: BEAUTY CAN CAUSE A CONVERSION

Speaks of Art as Path to God, Aid to Prayer

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 31, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is inviting people to visit art museums not only for cultural enrichment but also for the opportunity to strengthen a bond with the Lord, to be invited by beauty to “ascend to God.”

The Pope made this invitation today at the general audience held in Castel Gandolfo, in which he continued his teaching on prayer. Today he turned to the subject of beauty as a way to God.

The Holy Father suggested to his listeners that perhaps they’ve had the experience of contemplating art, poetry or music, and perceiving that they were before “something far greater, something that ‘speaks,’ something capable of touching the heart, of communicating a message, of elevating the soul.”

“Art is capable of expressing, and of making visible, man’s need to go beyond what he sees; it reveals his thirst and his search for the infinite,” the Pontiff explained. “Indeed, it is like a door opened to the infinite, [opened] to a beauty and a truth beyond the every day. And a work of art can open the eyes of the mind and heart, urging us upward.”

Then, there are artistic expressions that are “true roads to God, the supreme Beauty,” he continued, art that is born of faith and expresses the faith, and are “a help [to us] in growing in our relationship with him in prayer.”

Benedict XVI recounted a personal experience of this kind: “I remember a concert performance of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach — in Munich in Bavaria — conducted by Leonard Bernstein. At the conclusion of the final selection, one of the Cantate, I felt — not through reasoning, but in the depths of my heart — that what I had just heard had spoken truth to me, truth about the supreme composer, and it moved me to give thanks to God. Seated next to me was the Lutheran bishop of Munich. I spontaneously said to him: ‘Whoever has listened to this understands that faith is true.'”

“How many times, then, can artistic expression be for us an occasion that reminds us of God, that assists us in our prayer or even in the conversion of our heart,” the Pope reflected.

Hence, he made the invitation to “rediscover the importance of this way for prayer, for our living relationship with God.”

“Cities and countries throughout the world house treasures of art that express the faith and call us to a relationship with God,” the Pope observed. “Therefore, may our visits to places of art be not only an occasion for cultural enrichment — also this — but may they become, above all, a moment of grace that moves us to strengthen our bond and our conversation with the Lord, [that moves us] to stop and contemplate — in passing from the simple external reality to the deeper reality expressed — the ray of beauty that strikes us, that ‘wounds’ us in the intimate recesses of our heart and invites us to ascend to God.”

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