As I look at the Roman Catholic Church I see art everywhere, and if we look at its’ history, it has to its’ name some of the finest sculptors and artists. Why are the arts and Catholicism so intertwined? How important are the arts to the faith?
It seems the early Church Fathers described the purpose of religious images as anagogic, literally meaning “leading one upward.” They wrote that this art should raise the soul and mind of the beholder to the incorruptible and eternal realm of the Spirit. Catholic art has always told the story of the Faith. Originally this was done through clandestine symbols (such as the anchor/cross, and the fish), later through iconography and portraiture (in which saints held an item which helped the viewer identify them), and later still through highly detailed depictions of scriptural scenes and hagiography (the life stories of saints). In the Catholic Mass, the homily is used to explain the Scriptures and the doctrines of the Church, and for instructing the faithful how they can apply these in daily life. Sacred art can act as a “homily” of its own. Also keep in mind that in the earlier days, many were not literate, so giving them a written Bible would not have made much sense. Often the teaching was done through the arts, doing the Stations of the Cross, The Mysteries of the Rosary through the church, using visuals to teach. Same purpose served the icons, to teach, to instruct, and also be a reminder daily to live the faith in all aspects of life, not just Sunday at Mass. As an article I read pointed out “The Church believed that the temple should show that it was built not for the service of man, but of God. To adorn these majestic buildings she summoned the sister arts. Through the stained windows, “The panes of ancient churches, passionate with martyred saints, whom angels wait, with Virgin and with Crucified,” the light shone holier for that transfiguration. There the painter told in language all could read the solemn story of the religion they believed.” The writer also points out in regards to music the following: “Music, whose miraculous voice utters all passions, pains, delights, and truths, breathed her beautiful religion on the air. She sang of what Raphael and Titian painted; of the birth, and the death, and the resurrection; of the prayers of penitence, the anguish of strife, the rapture of heaven, the torments of hell; and in her voice were heard sobs, and cries, and supplications, thunders of divine wrath, trumpets of doom and of redemption, and choruses upon choruses of angels proclaiming the glory of God. In all the arts the Church embodied Christianity; as she converted souls, so she converted music and painting.” The arts including visual served and still do when properly applied to teach the faith, to bring God presence and glory into our lives. In addition it should be noted that The golden age of the organ was also the golden age of art, architecture, poetry, music, and science. The Catholic Church encouraged and commissioned many of the great artists and composers whose works are admired and used to this day. Bach, Haydn, and Handel are but a few of the Renaissance composers who have enriched our lives with the beauty of their Masses, chorales, cantatas, and sacred hymns. The church has supported the arts from the beginning of time.
I will not abandon writing secular songs, and when God’s Spirit comes upon me to inspire that I will write what I am inspired to write, by His Spirit or through a very special connection to certain persons. I do hope to dedicate my life to sacred music, the sacred arts and also Italian culture and arts. That is my hope, my prayer, the gifts, one of the gifts I ask for this holiday season and for the New Year, in addition to hoping that a particular connection moves forward, grows and develops further, very organically.