From the Editor's Desk (Tuesday, December 12, 2017, Gaudium Press) In order to transmit the brilliance of the Good News to listeners, the preacher must reflect it in his own life. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have encouraged shepherds to embellish their preaching with a touch of beauty that comes from the heart.
While the parable of the sower (cf. Lk 8:4-15) eloquently illustrates the importance of the Word, and the way in which the "ground" of the heart must be prepared to receive the seed, nourish it, and produce fruit, there is another oft-overlooked aspect in the influence of good preaching.
If proclamation of the Good News aims simply to instruct (docere) souls in truth, without pleasing (delectare) through beauty, it will never manage to move them (movere) to goodness, that is, to conversion. Truth was sown, but beauty was stifled. The Word sprouted, but it did not mature in fruit.
The original meaning of the metaphor of the "Good Shepherd" (Jn 10:11-14) is "Beautiful Shepherd" (ποιμη?ν ο? καλο?ς). During His earthly life, the Divine Word radiated the splendors of the Eternal Father, drawing all to Him (cf. Jn 12:32). In this sense, Jesus' hands not only touched, they spoke. His mouth not only spoke, it touched hearts through words. His eyes looked and fascinated. The people admiringly said: "He has done all things well" (Mk 7:37). We would rather say He did them beautifully, in union with the truth. This, then, is the model for the proclamation of the true, beautiful and good news of the conversion to the living God (cf. Acts 14:15).
"Christianus alter Christus": after contemplating the truth, the Christian must then communicate to others what he has drawn from it. This is where the indispensable role of beauty in the transmission of the Gospel shines. It is not enough to preach the truth; it is necessary to "reveal" it, literally to withdraw the veils from it by sensible manifestation. Pulchrum - beauty - through its appeal, captivates and moves the will to give itself and, finally, it concludes in love, the spirit resting in the possession of the desired.
The pontifical Magisterium, especially since the Second Vatican Council, has stressed the importance of the way of beauty for the transmission of the Faith. In the Letter to Artists, John Paul II points out: "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." Benedict XVI emphasizes that the Church "has never tired of making known to the whole world the beauty of the Gospel." Also, Francis affirms: "Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the ‘way of beauty' (via pulchritudinis)."
In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, the Pontiff stresses that some "revealed truths [...] are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gospel. In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God."
Therefore, we see "a renewed esteem for beauty as a means of touching the human heart and enabling the truth and goodness of the Risen Christ. [...] Each particular Church should encourage the use of the arts in evangelization, building on the treasures of the past but also drawing upon the wide variety of contemporary expressions so as to transmit the faith in a new ‘language of parables.'" Francis continues: "In the homily, truth goes hand in hand with beauty and goodness. Far from dealing with abstract truths or cold syllogisms, it communicates the beauty of the images used by the Lord to encourage the practice of good. The memory of the faithful, like that of Mary, should overflow with the wondrous things done by God."
The via pulchritudinis - way of beauty - attracts us, through love, to a personal encounter with Jesus, the "Beautiful Shepherd", and with Mary, all fair - tota pulchra. Accordingly, through intimate and sublime union with Them, humanity will find proportionate harmony, integrity and splendour and, in this way, "beauty will save the world."
By Fr. Alex Barbosa de Brito, EP
According to the triad of classical rhetoric (cf. CICERO, Marcus Tullius. Brutus, c.XLIX, n.185; Orator, c.XXI, n.69).
2 ST. JOHN PAUL II. Letter to the Artists, n.12.
3 BENEDICT XVI. Ubicumque et semper, 21/9/2010.
4 FRANCIS. Evangelii gaudium, n.167.
5 Ibid, n 36.
6 Ibid, n 167.
7 Ibid, n 142.