“Divine beauty is intrinsic to the created world. It is a part of all things.”
Goodness and Beauty
Pope Saint John Paul II said, “The artist has a special relationship to beauty. In a very true sense it can be said that beauty is the vocation bestowed on him by the Creator in the gift of “artistic talent.” (Letter to Artists, paragraph 3)
So the role of the artist whether a painter, writer, musician or any of the wonderfully diverse ways man has found to express his “artistic talent,” must be bound up with beauty. It is an inseparable part of his vocation. To truly understand the role of the artist in salvation history we must understand how to approach God in terms of beauty.
“God saw everything He had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
The word “good” is translated from the Greek word “kalon” which emulates the Hebrew word “towb.” “Kalon” is a word that carries with it a much more nuanced meaning than simply good. It is used 559 times in the Bible in 517 verses and is translated in a number of ways such as better, best, pleasing, mercy, prosperity and fair just to name a few.
In two verses in particular it is translated as beautiful.
“It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking upon the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.” (2Samuel 11:2)
“He had brought up Hadas’sah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother; the maiden was beautiful and lovely…” (Esther 2:7)
It would not then be too much of a stretch to read Genesis 1:31 as,
“God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very beautiful.”
From the beginning, in the Old Testament, God made the world good and beautiful. In the New Testament, Saint Paul affirmed this teaching in his Letter to Timothy,
“For everything created by God is good (kalon), and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” (1Timothy 4:4)
Divine beauty is intrinsic to the created world. It is a part of all things.
Those gifted with creative ability rarely, if ever, are able to realize a creation exactly as they intended it to be. This is a manifestation of our fallen nature. Artists share only a small part of the creative power of God, and do so imperfectly. But God made the world perfect; He could not do otherwise. He is the perfect artist expressing His creative will perfectly. By this we mean that all of creation was made exactly as God intended it to be.
But through man’s disobedience and the envy of the devil, sin and death entered into the world. (Wisdom 2:24) The divine masterpiece of perfection and beauty was marred.
When a painting or a story or a musical composition develops a flaw, the artist will try to repair it. If it cannot be repaired it is understandable that the artist may then destroy or abandon the work and start fresh. Rather than destroy His work outright, God chose to repair it. Since it was man that caused the damage God allowed man to participate in the restoration of the world. The Hebrew verb “to create” as used in Genesis conveys an ongoing process rather than a completed act performed in the past. That is to say the world was created, is created, and will be created until its completion. The vocation of man is to work towards the perfection of creation. For the artist this vocation is related, in a mysterious way, to beauty.
The work of man is to renew or bring to perfection the world that was made imperfect through man’s disobedience to God. Each of us has been given a specific vocation to accomplish our part in this regeneration.
© Lawrence Klimecki