Thursday, April 26, 2012

Devotion for today: Art and Prayer

Scripture for meditation: Luke 1:46
And Mary said, “My soul glorifies the Lord.”

Scripture for reflection: Psalm 145: 4-5
One generation praises your deeds to the next and proclaims your mighty works. They speak of the splendor of your majestic glory; tell of your wondrous deeds.
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Pope Benedict XVI tells us: …Today I would like to reflect briefly on one of these channels that can lead to God and can also be of help in the encounter with him. It is the way of artistic expression, part of that “via pulchritudinis” — the “way of beauty”, of which I have spoken several times and whose deepest meaning must be recovered by men and women today. It may have happened on some occasion that you paused before a sculpture, a picture, a few verses of a poem or a piece of music that you found deeply moving, that gave you a sense of joy, a clear perception, that is, that what you beheld was not only matter, a piece of marble or bronze, a painted canvas, a collection of letters or an accumulation of sounds, but something greater, something that “speaks”, that can touch the heart, communicate a message, uplift the mind. A work of art is a product of the creative capacity of the human being who in questioning visible reality, seeks to discover its deep meaning and to communicate it through the language of forms, color and sound. Art is able to manifest and make visible the human need to surpass the visible; it expresses the thirst and the quest for the infinite. Indeed it resembles a door open on to the infinite, on to a beauty and a truth that go beyond the daily routine. And a work of art can open the eyes of the mind and of the heart, impelling us upward… when we listen to a piece of sacred music that plucks at our heartstrings, our mind, as it were, expands and turns naturally to God. I remember a concert of music by Johann Sebastian Bach in Munich, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. At the end of the last passage, one of the Cantatas, I felt, not by reasoning but in the depths of my heart, that what I had heard had communicated truth to me, the truth of the supreme composer, and impelled me to thank God. The Lutheran bishop of Munich was next to me and I said to him spontaneously: “In hearing this, one understands: it is true; such strong faith is true, as well as the beauty that irresistibly expresses the presence of God’s truth”….Paul Claudel, a famous French poet, playwright and diplomat, precisely while he was listening in the Cathedral of Notre Dame to the singing of the Magnificat during Christmas Mass in 1886, had a tangible experience of God’s presence. He had not entered the church for reasons of faith but rather in order to seek arguments against Christians, and instead, God's grace worked actively in his heart. Dear friends, I ask you to rediscover the importance of this path also for prayer, for our living relationship with God. ….Let us hope that the Lord will help us to contemplate his beauty, both in nature and in works of art, so that we, moved by the light that shines from his face, may be a light for our neighbor. Many thanks. BENEDICT XVI,GENERAL AUDIENCE ,Castel Gandolfo, Wednesday, 31 August 2011 copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Prayer: Psalm 147: 7-8; Psalm 145: 1-3
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; with lyre, celebrate our God. I will extol you, my God and king; I will bless your name forever. Great is the Lord and worthy of high praise: God’s grandeur is beyond understanding.

My thoughts: In trying to find ways to contemplate the majesty of God, we have a virtual palate of beautiful expressions given to us by artists, musicians, sculptors and the like. The trick is to make time in our busy lives for leisure, for time to stroll inside a Cathedral, stand and stare at a beautiful stained glass window, and see the glory of God. Time spent listening to rapturous music can lift our weary souls straight to heaven. It is all there for us, but we have to seek it out, and contemplate it in order to see the face of God in it. I once read, “A country without leisure is a country without God.” How true it is! Robotic work habits force us out of the beautiful and into the mundane, and God is anything but mundane. Let us find a way to lift our souls through the arts so that we may join with the Pope in declaring, “In hearing this, one understands!”

Our prayer to God: Our quest for contemplation must include some form of the arts. Let us take time this week to listen to the word of God in beautiful music, to see His face in a master painting, to feel His presence as we stroll through an old Cathedral, or to hear His whisperings as we read inspiring works of literature. God has given us many ways to find Him, if we but take the time.

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