Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saint Luke, Patron of Artists

On this Feast of Saint Luke, we pause to reflect on the special vocation of the Evangelists to hand on the Good News of Jesus Christ. But, today's Feast, honoring the patron of artists, also reminds us of the essential place that literature, the visual arts, and music have always had in the spread of the Gospel in all times and places.

Saint John Paul II highlighted this in his Letter to Artists, which was issued in preparation for the Great Jubilee, on Easter Sunday, April 4, 1999:

In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable. Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colours, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery.

A contemporary icon of St. Luke
showing scenes from his life.
The Church has need especially of those who can do this on the literary and figurative level, using the endless possibilities of images and their symbolic force. Christ himself made extensive use of images in his preaching, fully in keeping with his willingness to become, in the Incarnation, the icon of the unseen God.

The Church also needs musicians. How many sacred works have been composed through the centuries by people deeply imbued with the sense of the mystery! The faith of countless believers has been nourished by melodies flowing from the hearts of other believers, either introduced into the liturgy or used as an aid to dignified worship. In song, faith is experienced as vibrant joy, love, and confident expectation of the saving intervention of God.

The Church needs architects, because she needs spaces to bring the Christian people together and celebrate the mysteries of salvation. After the terrible destruction of the last World War and the growth of great cities, a new generation of architects showed themselves adept at responding to the exigencies of Christian worship, confirming that the religious theme can still inspire architectural design in our own day. Not infrequently these architects have constructed churches which are both places of prayer and true works of art.

You can read Pope Paul VI's 1965 Message to Artists (issued at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council), here.

A Prayer of Thanks for Artists and Writers +
Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely: We bless your name for inspiring all those who with images and words have filled us with desire and love for you; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
[adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints]

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