Has the Church of the late 20th and early 21st century forgotten the importance of beauty for the soul’s search for truth and her longing for God? We continuously hear from the elite that music and art play no real significance in the Church or Her liturgies. But I wonder if that is so. In a previous article I wrote about the aspects of the Divine Love which let us recognize His Presence hidden among us: for instance, in Truth, Light, Goodness and Beauty. If one cannot see Christ’s connection in life to beauty then such a man displays a withered soul in need of the Eternally Beautiful that it might stimulate him.
Our art and our music are significant in that they can, when inspired, move our souls to the peace, love and tranquility that are but reflections of the One who gives the soul her true rest. Have we modern men forgotten how to love, how to expand our souls, how to be transported to another world by these mediums? Are we no longer humans, with a longing for beauty? If so, I am afraid that we have lost our sense of holiness just as we moderns have lost our sense of sin.
It would seem that this may be so if we were to walk into a modernistic church designed in the minimalist motif or listen to the modern hymns that transport the soul not to God but to an auditorium full of children gathered for a sing-a-long. Our hearts and souls contract when confronted with the inexpressive lines of minimalism. It shouts that there is nothing to say, nothing to long for, nothing to aspire to; it is just utilitarian in form and design and that is all that life can offer. In contrast to a gothic church, we do not see the hope for something timeless and eternal but instead see what is stark and sterile.
The same can of course be said of music which contracts our souls and sets our hearts square on the world. It was the other worldliness of Gregorian chant that once moved man’s heart, mind and soul to places it had never dreamed of going. It was a glance into the heavens and it expanded the souls of those who would listen to be transported as it were into a heavenly world full of angels, awe and mysteries of unspoken beauty. Our hearts ache for beauty as the human heart has always done. I do not believe, nor will I ever believe that the human heart and soul has lost its relish for beauty, goodness and love: we long for it and thirst for it as a foretaste of the All Good, the All Beautiful, the All Loving God of our dreams. It is a means through which we glimpse God Himself.
These external and superfluous additions to liturgy are not therefore pointless and they do not take our mind off of the mysteries and the incomprehensible goodness of the sacraments. Instead they draw one closer and expand our hearts to better receive Him, our God, our Love and the All Beautiful Christ into our longing souls who wait with awe and who thirst for His Holiness. For holiness consists, in part of unspoiled beauty, unspoiled goodness, unspoiled truth and unspoiled love.
When man no longer recognizes beauty he will no longer recognize God. I cannot for a minute think that man’s innate love for beauty was place within our hearts and souls for no reason. I do not find it of little value and little worth as we seek our Divine End for which we were made.