‘Authentic beauty unlocks the yearning of the human heart’
By Shawna Hanson
The Church’s ancient tradition, Lectio Divina, is the prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture with the “ears of the heart” and the eyes of faith. In this prayerful reading of Scripture, a person listens for a word, a phrase or an event that stands out in the Scripture text and then meditates on the phrase, listening for what God might be saying to them in and through His Word. St. Ignatius of Loyola encouraged us to employ our imagination into our prayer as well, visualizing and entering into the scenes of the Gospels as God leads and inspires us. For some this comes very naturally, but for others it is difficult.
If imagining the scene is difficult for you, an artist’s depiction of the Scripture passage can be of great assistance. The practice of praying with visual images is sometimes called Visio Divina, or divine seeing. In it, a scripture text is paired with a picture, and we are invited to both listen and see with the eyes of faith as we contemplate both the words and the image. A beautiful image can be very helpful because as Pope Benedict XVI has said, “Authentic beauty unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond.” The goal of both lectio and visio divina is to grow closer to the heart of Jesus, to open our hearts to His heart and in doing so, to come to know Him better, hear Him more clearly and to grow in our desire to follow Him more closely. Beauty can do this for us; it can open our hearts to the One who is Beauty Himself. In addition, Beauty also teaches and many classical works of art in the Christian tradition speak (without words) the profound truths of our faith. As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words” and through them we can grow in both “heart” and “head” knowledge.
The National Eucharistic Revival seeks to foster and encourage these types of encounters with Our Lord. In and through this movement, the Holy Spirit is inspiring resources designed to help “enkindle a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Diocesan Committee for the Revival has gathered nine pieces of sacred art along with reflections which we hope will aid all who desire to grow closer to Jesus and also come to know better His true presence in the Eucharist. We were inspired to do so after being asked by a catechist if there was a resource he could draw from to use sacred art in his classroom to both teach and inspire his students. The pieces contained in “The Holy Eucharist in Art” are only a small sampling from “How Catholic Art Saved the Faith: The Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art,” by Elizabeth Lev and “The Heart of the Revival Newsletter,” (art reflections by Jem Sullivan). After viewing and praying with the art we have gathered, we invite you to continue praying with these resources. Dr. Sullivan has also published a book, “Way of Beauty: Rekindling Eucharistic Amazement through Visio Divina” that you might find helpful.
“Beauty will save the world. The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man” — Fyodor Dostoevsky
Eucharistic Art Resources
Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Eucharistic Congress
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