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Benedict on the Way of Beauty and the Path to God


“The way of beauty is a privileged and fascinating path on which to approach the Mystery of God.” Pope Benedict XVI

The following is an excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s Wednesday General Audience address from November 18, 2009, in which the Holy Father discussed the relationship between faith and beauty.

“Dear brothers and sisters, I would now like to emphasize two elements of Romanesque and Gothic art that are also helpful to us. The first: the masterpieces of art created in Europe in past centuries are incomprehensible unless one takes into account the religious spirit that inspired them. Marc Chagall, an artist who has always witnessed to the encounter between aesthetics and faith, wrote that “For centuries painters dipped their brushes into that colourful alphabet which was the Bible”. When faith, celebrated in the Liturgy in a special way, encounters art, it creates a profound harmony because each can and wishes to speak of God, making the Invisible visible…”

“The second element: the strength of the Romanesque style and the splendour of the Gothic cathedrals remind us that the via pulchritudinis, the way of beauty, is a privileged and fascinating path on which to approach the Mystery of God. What is the beauty that writers, poets, musicians, and artists contemplate and express in their language other than the reflection of the splendour of the eternal Word made flesh?”

“Then St Augustine says: “Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air, amply spread around everywhere, question the beauty of the sky, question the serried ranks of the stars, question the sun making the day glorious with its bright beams, question the moon tempering the darkness of the following night with its shining rays, question the animals that move in the waters, that amble about on dry land, that fly in the air; their souls hidden, their bodies evident; the visible bodies needing to be controlled, the invisible souls controlling them. Question all these things. They all answer you, “Here we are, look; we’re beautiful!’ Their beauty is their confession. Who made these beautiful changeable things, if not one who is beautiful and unchangeable?” (Sermo CCXLI, 2: PL 38, 1134).

“Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord help us to rediscover the way of beauty as one of the itineraries, perhaps the most attractive and fascinating, on which to succeed in encountering and loving God.”

(Photo Credit:  World Youth Day via Getty Images)

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