Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Three simple, but profound words. Three words that appeal to all mankind. Catholic words are these, albeit with a small “c.” The impact that the Catholic Church, with a capital “C,” has had on the arts, though, is enormous.
The Church has unswervingly held that mankind, and the works of his hands, and mind, are to be praised and turned to the benefit of all. Because to do so redounds to the Glory of God. Since the earliest of times, the Church has encouraged sacred art for this purpose. This isn’t just my personal opinion either.
Just look in the Catechism,
VI. TRUTH, BEAUTY, AND SACRED ART
2500 The practice of goodness is accompanied by spontaneous spiritual joy and moral beauty. Likewise, truth carries with it the joy and splendor of spiritual beauty. Truth is beautiful in itself. Truth in words, the rational expression of the knowledge of created and uncreated reality, is necessary to man, who is endowed with intellect. But truth can also find other complementary forms of human expression, above all when it is a matter of evoking what is beyond words: the depths of the human heart, the exaltations of the soul, the mystery of God. Even before revealing himself to man in words of truth, God reveals himself to him through the universal language of creation, the work of his Word, of his wisdom: the order and harmony of the cosmos-which both the child and the scientist discover-“from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator,” “for the author of beauty created them.”
What follows is my Christmas gift to the readers of this blog. I didn’t make it, mold it, or shape it. I simply found it and wish to share it with you. In a way, it’s like when I picked dandelions and brought them to my mother when I was a child playing in a field. A worthless weed of a flower, and yet she always accepted it like I was handing her bars of gold.
In a sense, this is like a manifestation of the gifts that we bring to God, the creator of all that is seen and unseen. Worthless, and yet…priceless. After all, He became one of us in order to give us the opportunity to become like Him.
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
This poem by Alexander Pope, a Catholic muse non pareil, embodies the three words I began this post with. Because the promised Babe that he writes of here, brought, and still brings, these three words to life, and into our lives. Thanks be to the LORD.
The Messiah – A Sacred Eclogue
Ye nymphs of Solyma! begin the song:
To heavenly themes sublimer strains belong.
The mossy fountains, and the sylvan shades,
The dreams of Pyndus, and th’ Aonian maids,
Delight no more—O Thou, my voice inspire
Who touch’d Isaiah’s hallow’d lips with fire!
Rapt into future times the bard begun:
A virgin shall conceive, a virgin bear a Son!
From Jesse’s root behold a Branch arise,
Whose sacred flower with fragrance fills the skies:
Th’ ethereal spirit o’er its leaves shall move,
And on its top descend the mystic dove,
Ye heavens! from high the dewy nectar pour,
And in soft silence shed the kindly show’r!
The sick and weak the healing plant shall aid,
From storms a shelter, and from heat a shade.
All crimes shall cease, and ancient fraud shall fail
Returning Justice lifts aloft her scale;
Peace o’er the world her olive wand extend,
And white-robed Innocence from heav’n descend.
Swift fly the years, and rise th’ expected morn!
O spring to light, auspicious Babe be born!
See, Nature hastes her earliest fruits to bring,
With all the incense of the breathing spring;
See lofty Lebanon his head advance,
See nodding forests in the mountains dance:
See spicy clouds from lowly Sharon rise,
And Carmel’s flowery top perfume the skies!
Hark! a glad voice the lonely desert cheers;
“Prepare the way! a God, a God appears!”
“A God, a God!” the vocal hills reply;
The rocks proclaim th’ approaching Deity.
Lo, Earth receives Him from the bending skies!
Sink down, ye mountains, and, ye valleys, rise!
With heads declined, ye cedars, homage pay!
Be smooth, ye rocks! ye rapid floods, give way!
The Savior comes, by ancient bards foretold:
Hear him, ye deaf; and, all ye blind, behold!
He from thick films shall purge the visual ray,
And on the sightless eye-ball pour the day:
‘Tis he th’ obstructed paths of sound shall clear,
And bid new music charm th’ unfolding ear:
The dumb shall sing, the lame his crutch forego,
And leap exulting like the bounding roe.
No sigh, no murmur, the wide world shall hear,
From every face he wipes off every tear.
In adamantine chains shall Death be bound,
And Hell’s grim tyrant feel th’ eternal wound.
As the good shepherd tends his fleecy care,
Seeks freshest pasture and the purest air,
Explores the lost, the wandering sheep directs,
By day o’ersees them, and by night protects;
The tender lambs he raises in his arms,
Feeds from his hands, and in his bosom warms;
Thus shall mankind His guardian care engage,
The promised father of the future age.
No more shall nation against nation rise,
Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyes,
Nor fields with gleaming steel be cover’d o’er,
The brazen trumpets kindle rage no more;
But useless lances into scythes shall bend,
And the broad falchion in a ploughshare end.
Then palaces shall rise; the joyful son
Shall finish what his short-lived sire begun;
Their vines a shadow to their race shall yield,
And the same hand that sow’d shall reap the field.
The swain in barren deserts with surprise
Sees lilies spring, and sudden verdure rise;
And starts amidst the thirsty wilds to hear
New falls of water murmuring in his ear.
On rifted rocks, the dragon’s late abodes,
The green reed trembles, and the bulrush nods.
Waste sandy valleys, once perplex’d with thorn,
The spiry fir and shapely box adorn;
To leafless shrubs the flowering palm succeeds,
And odorous myrtle to the noisome weeds.
The lambs with wolves shall graze the verdant mead,
And boys in flowery bands the tiger lead;
The steer and lion at one crib shall meet,
And harmless serpents lick the pilgrim’s feet.
The smiling infant in his hand shall take
The crested basilisk and speckled snake,
Pleased, the green lustre of the scales survey,
And with their forky tongue shall innocently play.
Rise, crown’d with light, imperial Salem, rise,
Exalt thy towery head, and lift thy eyes!
See a long race thy spacious courts adorn;
See future sons and daughters yet unborn,
In crowding ranks on every side arise,
Demanding life, impatient for the skies!
See barbarous nations at thy gates attend,
Walk in thy light, and in thy temple bend!
See thy bright altars throng’d with prostrate kings,
And heap’d with products of Sabsean springs!
For thee Idumea’s spicy forests blow,
And seeds of gold in Ophir’s mountains glow.
See heaven its sparkling portals wide display,
And break upon thee in a flood of day.
No more the rising sun shall gild the morn,
Nor evening Cynthia fill her silver horn;
But lost, dissolved in thy superior rays,
One tide of glory, one unclouded blaze
O’erflow thy courts: the Light himself shall shine
Reveal’d, and God’s eternal day be thine!
The seas shall waste, the skies in smoke decay,
Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away;
But fix’d His word, His saving pow’r remains;—
Thy realm for ever lasts, thy own Messiah reigns.
I pray that you and yours have a Blessed Christmas. Amen.