The Most Fascinating Way to Reach God

Benedict XVI Draws Lessons From Gothic Architecture

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2009 ( Benedict XVI today drew two lessons from the beauty of Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals as he dedicated his general audience address to consider the flowering of Christian architecture that began in the 11th century.

The Pope spoke to his audience in Paul VI Hall about both the physical and symbolic characteristics of European churches and cathedrals in the Middle Ages.

And he pointed to two lessons for today: one regarding Europe’s Christian roots, and another on the “way of beauty” as a path for meeting God.

“The works of art born in Europe in past centuries are incomprehensible if one does not take into account the religious soul that inspired them,” the Holy Father said.

He proposed that faith’s encounter with art brings about a profound harmony, “because both can and want to praise God, making the Invisible visible.”

The Pontiff said he would share this reflection on Saturday when he meets with a group of artists, representing both the secular and sacred lines of the profession.

Approaching mystery

Benedict XVI said a second lesson from the architecture of the Christian Middle Ages is that the “way of beauty, is a privileged and fascinating way to approach the Mystery of God.”

“What is beauty, which writers, poets, musicians, and artists contemplate and translate into their language, if not the reflection of the splendor of the Eternal Word made flesh,” he asked.

And the Pope cited St. Augustine in affirming that created beauty lifts the spirit to Beauty Himself: “Ask the beauty of the earth, ask the beauty of the sea, ask the beauty of the ample and diffused air. Ask the beauty of heaven, ask the order of the stars, ask the sun, which with its splendor brightens the day; ask the moon, which with its clarity moderates the darkness of night. Ask the beasts that move in the water, that walk on the earth, that fly in the air: souls that hide, bodies that show themselves; the visible that lets itself be guided, the invisible that guides.

“Ask them! All will answer you: Look at us, we are beautiful! Their beauty makes them known. This mutable beauty, who has created it if not Immutable Beauty?”

The Pontiff concluded by praying that “the Lord help us to rediscover the way of beauty as one of the ways, perhaps the most attractive and fascinating, to be able to find and love God.”

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