Beauty, one could say, is the eternal obsession of the artist. In any time, the ideal and goal of art has been to elevate the human spirit and to help it find, almost by intuition, that other level of reality in which perfection, proportion, harmony and light exist. Around 1965 Blessed Paul VI, in his exquisite Italian, wrote to artists: “This world in which we live needs beauty not to fall into despair. Beauty, like truth, is what puts joy in the hearts of men; it is the precious fruit, which resists the wear of time, which unites the generations and makes them communicate in admiration. And all this by your hands… Remember that you are the guardians of the beauty in the world”.
Michelangelo was, without a doubt, one of the best “guardians of beauty on earth”. He studied it and reflected it in his works in a way that very few have managed to do. If we had to describe the Pieta in one word, we could all agree to use the word “beautiful”. It is beautiful in its expression and its technical aspects – the proportion of the lines, the serene countenance of the faces, the nobility of the chosen material, the famous sfumatto technique of sculpting, the gracefulness and beauty of Jesus and Mary. The sculpture, encompassing all in an equilateral triangle, provides as a whole an admirable sense of balance and serenity. Michelangelo perceived sculpture as the highest expression of art. He justified it in this way: in architecture and painting, the artist creates, constructs, invents, imitates. In sculpting, however, the form is already in the stone. The artist, more so than creating, unveils the beauty already contained in the block of marble. With patience and skill, the sculptor’s mission is to bring to light the image that is, so to speak, trapped, imprisoned in the stone, removing all excess. Sculpting is, above all, manifesting hidden beauty. It is discovering the beauty that God left hidden inside of the stone.
I believe that all of this is undoubtedly related to our spiritual life. In some way, each one of us is “a guardian of the beauty on earth.” The most noble and eternal beauty is not the one that reflects art, but rather reflects holiness. True kindness, love for Christ, humility, purity, virtue, fidelity, hope – God has entrusted us with the mission of protecting all of these within our soul; to refuse to allow the darkness of the world to take away the highest beauty that unites us more closely with God, source and origin of all beauty. In the XIII century, after receiving on Mt. Verna the gift of the stigmata, St. Francis of Assisi could only repeat: “You are beauty…you are beauty.”.
Within us lies a beautiful form that brings meaning to our lives. The Christian life consists in allowing the Divine Artist to sculpt us, polish us, remove what is excess from us and bring out the image and beautiful form that He had in mind when He created us. It is not about inventing who we are, but about discovering who we are, finding the original project that God placed in our souls and that, in docility to Him, we can bring to light and manifest.
The words of the prophet Isaiah now come to mind: “We are the clay, you are the potter. We are all work of your hands…”
And these from Jesus: “May your light shine before men….”.
This we must think through slowly….very slowly….