Why Sacred Art is Needed More than Ever


Editor’s note: Article originally published on August 22, 2019. This article is sponsored by Holyart.com.


Our world is an ugly place. Disease, cancer, war, hunger, greed, murder, abuse, and countless other appalling things have existed throughout human history. Because of the original sin of Adam and Eve, humanity fell out of communion with God. Thankfully, God had a plan. A redemptive plan of salvation. Through the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, God provided a pathway for us to return to Him. Two thousand years later, not much has changed with humanity. Human nature is always the same. Self-centered. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide the Catholic Church as a harbor and teacher of truth.

Catholic Church

Baptized Christians are called to a life of grace. This is best lived out by participation in the Sacraments. Life on earth is temporary. Our true home is Heaven. St. Therese of Liseux said it best, “The world’s thy ship and not thy home.” Nothing is wrong with admiring the beauty this world has to offer. It only becomes an issue when the good of the created world is preferred to the good of God.

Beauty and Goodness

According to Bishop Robert Barron, “Begin with the beautiful, which leads you to the good, which leads you to the truth.” His quote always intrigues me. Think of the things you consider to be beautiful. Things that immediately come to mind are the beauty of a sunset, a smile, or the kindness of a stranger. Those are truly beautiful things or actions. Beauty always points us to the good.

beauty truth goodness quote

Saint Pope John Paul II described the relationship between goodness and beauty in this way, “beauty is the visible form of the good” (Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists, 1999, no. 3). Throughout Church history, holy art in the form of icons, sculptures, and architecture has reminded Christians (and the world) of the Good News of Jesus Christ. In this article, I will provide three reasons why sacred art is desperately needed to help us recover a sense of beauty in an ugly world.

Inspiration Not Mere Entertainment

A major difference between modern art and sacred art is their purpose. The former seeks to entertain whereas the latter aims at a higher purpose—inspiration of the heart, mind, and soul. In his 1999 Letter to Artists, John Paul II describes the motivation of artists as, “they must labor without allowing themselves to be driven by the search for empty glory or the craving for cheap popularity, and still less by the calculation of some possible profit for themselves. There is therefore an ethic, even a ‘spirituality’ of artistic service, which contributes in its way to the life and renewal of a people” (no. 4). Holy art seeks to serve others and the Other—(God). Gazing at those holy individuals will help inspire you to lead a holier and virtuous life.

Drawing us into the Paschal Mystery

Sacred art draws us into the life of Jesus. “Thanks also to the help of artists ‘the knowledge of God can be better revealed, and the preaching of the Gospel can become clearer to the human mind’”, declared St. John Paul II (Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists, 1999, no. 11). Sacred art largely consists of scenes from the Gospels. Entering any Catholic cathedral or basilica causes an immediate reaction of wonder and awe. We gaze at the glorious murals, statues, and music that exist.

trinity icon sacred art

In college, I went on a trip to Europe. My favorite part was visiting the glorious cathedrals in Rome and France. I experienced the tangibility of the Gospels during those church tours. The marble statues of Christ and the Apostles transported me into the New Testament. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the primary subject matter of sacred art is Jesus, Mary, the saints, and scenes from the Gospel (CCC 2502). Sacred art helps draw our minds deeper into the Mysteries of our Faith.

Sacred Art Navigates the Soul Toward Heaven

Along with inspiring and drawing us closer to the Good News of the Gospel, sacred art helps to remind us that our ultimate destination is not here on earth, but in Heaven with God. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his August 31st, 2011 General Audience, “Art is able to manifest and make visible the human need to surpass the visible, it expresses the thirst and the quest for the infinite.” Holy art acts as a doorway to the supernatural.

doorway to the divine

Sacred art is not the end, but rather a vehicle to help us pray. The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1192 teaches, “Sacred images in our churches and homes are intended to awaken and nourish our faith in the mystery of Christ. Through the icon of Christ and his works of salvation, it is he whom we adore. Through sacred images of the holy Mother of God, of the angels and of the saints, we venerate the persons represented.”

The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in my dining room reminds me of her closeness to her Son Jesus. Gazing at images of saints also help guide me closer to Christ and ponder the reality of Heaven—full love and communion with God!

Sacred art is vital to a renewal of the increasing de-Christianization of nations and cultures around the world. Bring back beauty into an ugly world by owning holy art in your home and workplace. Be an advocate for change and promote the Gospel while adding beauty to your surroundings.


Visit Holyart.com for high quality and original Catholic artwork for your home, parish, or business.


Related Links

Sacred Art is the Triumph of Beauty and Truth

The Importance of Sacred Art

3 Reasons Catholics Should Have a Saint Statue at Home

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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. Part 5― War of the Serpent

scary snakes

 

 

 

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 19, 2017.


I have yet to meet a person who loves snakes. Possessing fangs, venom, and an ability to suffocate makes snakes simply sinister. Moreover, the lack of limbs to their deadly array of weapons further add to the peculiarity of snakes! Throughout history snakes appear in a majority of creation stories. The Bible is not exception.

A contextual reading of Genesis and Revelation opened my eyes to the genius of the Holy Spirit in ordering and confirming the canon of Scripture. Conflict with a serpent occurs at the beginning and end of the Bible!

The First Serpent (Proto-Dragon)

mary battling the dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Genesis 3:14 God places the following curse on the serpent, “Because you have done this [led Eve into sin], cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.” Immediately following in verse 15 predicts Satan’s animus towards the Woman. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 410, “This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium (‘first gospel’): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers. Fast forwarding to the end of the Bible a similar opposition occurs.

The Last Serpent (Dragon)

Revelation 12 describes in vivid symbolic language a battle between a woman and a dragon. The writer of Revelation identifies the dragon as the Devil and Satan in verse 9. It is interesting to note that the bible is book-ended by this theme of the battle between a woman [Mary] and the dragon [Satan]. According to Alice Camille in her U.S. Catholic article In the Garden of Good and Evil,

In the Bible, snakes appear at the launch of creation and again just before the apocalypse. The first serpent is really a proto-snake: He only loses his legs after enticing the first couple to sin. The final serpent is a full-blown dragon, which in ancient mythology was just a snake with wings. These biblical book-end snakes are no accident. The story in Revelation of the woman snatched away from the dragon’s harm is a conscious reenactment of the creation story, with happier results the second time around (U.S. Catholic September 2014, page 45).

Without reading the Bible through an A.D.D. contextual lens, I would not notice the perfect book-ending of theme. There is a logical flow and order to the canon of Scripture and it is an amazing experience to discover. I hope that you found today’s topic to be interesting and I continue to challenge you to find connections between the Old and New Testaments!


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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. Part 4― Jesus as the New Passover Lamb

jesus the passover lamb

 

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 16, 2017.


A common title Christians give Jesus is the Lamb of God. Without a solid understanding of the scriptures one may not notice the significance of this title. My goal for today’s post is to briefly detail the connections between the Old Testament Passover and Jesus’ Passion and Death in the New Testament as the New Passover. I present you four specific ways Jesus is appropriately called the New Passover Lamb.

timing is everything

 

Timing is Everything

Traditionally, Christians celebrate Good Friday and connect it to the Jewish Passover sacrifice. To give a quick overview of the importance of the Passover feast, in the Book of Exodus God saved the Israelite firstborns if they sacrificed their finest lamb [a firstborn sheep] and spread the blood on the wooden doorposts.

In the Gospel of John, the evangelist makes a point to mention the Passover sacrifice at least three times. John specifically states the time of day Jesus’ execution occurred .He wrote, “It was the Preparation Day for Passover, and the hour was about noon” (John 19:14).

The priests began slaughtering the Passover Lambs in the temple at noontime. I don’t believe this timing was a coincidence on John’s part.

Innocent Victim and Firstborn

Like the innocent lamb slain during Passover, Jesus was innocent of any crime and is the firstborn [and only] Son of God. Pilate repeatedly tries to give Jesus an escape from this sentence because in his heart the Roman governor did not view Jesus as guilty (see John 19:4; 19:12; 19:15).

jesus thirsts on the cross

Hyssop

I always found John 19:28-29 perplexing.  John writes, “Jesus, realizing that everything was now finished, said to fulfill the Scripture, ‘I am thirsty.’ There was a jar there, full of common wine. They stuck a sponge soaked in this wine on some hyssop and raised it to his lips.” Interestingly enough, Exodus 12:22 also refers to the usage of hyssop. Hyssop was the same plant used to spread the blood of the Passover Lamb on the wooden doorpost of the Israelite households.

John desires his readers to see Jesus as the New Passover Lamb. His blood is smeared on the wood of the Cross. This time instead of saving Israelite homes Jesus’ sacrifice was for everyone.

What’s in a Number?

There’s 206 bones in the human body. None of Jesus’ bones were broken. The evangelist states the reason for this as to fulfill the Scripture promise, “Break none of his bones” (John 19:31-36). Likewise, the Passover Lamb was slain in a similar manner. According to Exodus 12:46, “It [Passover Lamb] must be eaten in one and the same house; you may not take any of its flesh outside the house. You shall not break any of its bones.”

chris pratt mind blown gif

While there are many more connections between the Jewish Passover celebration and Jesus’ Passion and Death, I will leave you to ponder the points I made above. Read and reflect on Exodus 12 and John 19. The more I flip back and forth between the Old and New Testaments the greater appreciation I have for my Catholic faith.


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Catholic Meme Monday— Issue 9

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Time for another Catholic Meme Monday:

The Holy Spirit helps you pick your words wisely. 😊
A powerful image. Jesus is always with us! 🙏
Ouch!
Hurry up slow pokes! 🐢🐢
Lord of the breakdance. 🙌🤣🙂
I like an order of theologically orthodox content please and a side of fries.

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Why Being Funny Helps You Seriously Practice the Catholic Faith

By: Theresa Zoe Williams

“He who dwells in Heaven is laughing at their threats; the Lord makes light of them.” (Ps. 2:4)

Don't Call Me Shirley The Office Meme

We laugh because we have the hope of the Lord. Laughter is an integral part of a healthy spiritual life for just this reason. We have been delivered, so while salvation and our souls are very serious matters, we need not worry. Worry can lead to all sorts of vices like scrupulosity and even anger. But we were not delivered from death just so that we could worry ourselves out of friendship with God. He is a loving and merciful God! As such, the more we laugh, in good cheer and faith, the closer we can come to Him.

G.K. Chesterton on Humor

G.K. Chesterton once wrote in Orthodoxy that “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” What he meant by that was that angels are so secure in the love and friendship of God that they are burdened by nothing. And what happens when you are unburdened? You can fly! “Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Chesterton elaborated on his above statement very thoroughly. He said,

“The tattered cloak of the beggar will bear him up like the rayed plumes of the angels. But the kings in their heavy gold and the proud in their robes of purple will all of their nature sink downwards, for pride cannot rise to levity or levitation. Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One ‘settles down’ into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness. A man ‘falls’ into a brown study; he reaches up at a blue sky.

Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.”

Faith and Fun

Philip Neri

Don’t let this serious picture of Saint Philip Neri fool you he loved playing practical jokes. He once shaved half his beard to be funny!

Laughter is a leap of faith. It takes faith and hope to know that you are good and truly saved. Laughter says, I do not fear death or destruction. I laugh because God has saved me. Life is not meant to be all seriousness. Life is meant to be full of joy and what is a better sign of joy than laughter!

Saint Philip Neri is called the patron saint of humor because he often told jokes and played practical jokes. He would walk into meetings with half of his beard shaved off and other such shenanigans. Once, a follower asked Neri if he could wear a hairshirt as penance and Neri replied, “Only inside out and over your cassock.” Faith can be taken seriously while laughing.

Laughter reminds us of all that is good in the world. St. Neri said, “A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one,” and “Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life; wherefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits.” We have been given so much and we should be happy for it! A joyful heart can be made more perfect because it knows the goodness of God and that there is so much more to explore and learn. Even some self-deprecating humor, like St. Neri showed, can lead us to holiness! It is certainly one way to ground ourselves in humility, recognizing that we are not everything but that we are good, all the same.

Fulton Sheen on Humor and Faith

Fulton Sheen humor quote

Venerable Fulton Sheen has even weighed in on the topic, saying, “A divine sense of humor belongs to poets and saints because they have been richly endowed with a sense of the invisible, and can look out upon the same phenomena that other mortals take seriously and see in them something of the divine.”

This is something that I, personally, try to live in every moment of my life. It’s not about where to look but how to look. It is easy to see God everywhere and in everything, if you know how to look. The goodness of God is as in the delicate flower as it is in thick eyebrows and we should rejoice in both the same. You merely have to look around to see the goodness of God everywhere, even when people fail.

Comedy is Good

Kramer Laughing

So it is good to laugh! It is good to be entertained by the world around us and by comedians and poets and the class clown. It is good to laugh at yourself when you trip or make a silly mistake. It is good for comedians to tell jokes and for writers to write bits that will make an audience laugh. This is the work of God just as much as teaching the Faith or working directly for the Church are. Sometimes that’s hard to remember.

It is easy to think humor is a lesser good, not as important, and to belittle the efforts of those who are called to this because joy is hard to accept. But we must remember what Chesterton said, “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.” Don’t choose the easy path! Be light! Be so light that your soul simply floats up to the highest heavens to be with God. “God save us from gloomy saints!” St. Teresa of Avila said and isn’t it true.

Find Laughter Opportunities in Your Life

Laughter is best medicine

Mother Angelica, who had a quick wit, too, once said, “I try to laugh a lot, because life is funny, and everybody today is too serious. The only tragedy in the world, my friend, is sin.” The only tragedy in life is sin. Look around a little bit and see what is there to rejoice in and laugh at. I promise you, there’s so much. Laugh at the butterfly in flight or the bunny hopping to its burrow. Laugh at the baby delighting in a spoon for the first time or dancing to music. Laugh at yourself when you look in the mirror, knowing that you are so good and made in so much love and dignity. Shave half of your head! Whatever it is, laugh and laugh a lot.


Theresa is an author and entertainer who has contributed to two books, hosts a comedy podcast Up Too Late, and is working on two books of her own. She blogs at www.TheresaZoeWilliams.com and you can find her on Twitter @TheresaZoe.

Theresa Zoe Williams

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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. Part 3― Creation Week in Genesis and John


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 6, 2017.


This is the third installment of my series Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D . Check out the first two in the related links section at the end of the article. 

I am excited! The Gospel of John is probably my favorite gospel. Genesis’ creation story always fascinated me as well.

Today I am going to examine the direct connection the evangelist makes between the first book of the Bible and the first chapter in his gospel. I came across this revelation a few years ago while I was planning a lesson on John for my high school students. Here are three ways to show how John’s Gospel is the fulfillment of Genesis.

Presence of the Trinity

Both Genesis 1 and John 1 start with the phrase, “In the beginning” and both make reference to God being preexistent before the creation of the world. Not only is God referenced in both chapters, but the revelation of God as a commune of Persons is also present. The writers of Genesis in verse 2 state, “while a mighty wind swept over the waters”. Translated literally, this phrase refers to the spirit of God or the hinting at of the Holy Spirit—the Third Person of the Trinity.

Another foreshadowing of the Trinity occurs in Genesis 1:26 when God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The usages of the first person pronoun strongly hints at the Triune God fully revealed in the New Testament.Compare this with the first words of John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him” (1:1-3). I do not think it was a coincidence for John to invoke the first words of Genesis to begin his Gospel.

wedding at cana

Count the Days

There are six days of creation within the first creation story of Genesis. Interestingly enough John starts his gospel using a similar chronology. The evangelist starts his gospel with the words, “In the beginning” so let’s make that day 1. When we get to 1:29 it states, “the next day”. This is day 2. Verses 35 and 43 also have the phrase “the next day” so those verses correspond to days 3 and 4.

Chapter 2 begins with the following words, “On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus was also invited to the marriage, with his disciples.”

Notice he says on the third day which in contextually reading with John 1 the wedding at Cana occurs at the 7th day of the week. In other words, John is mirroring the chronology of Genesis 1 to begin his gospel.

keep calm and count the days

Wine Leads to Rest

Perhaps the greatest two words parents hear at the end of a long week both at work and home is rest and wine. John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, placed Jesus’ first miracle at the end of the New Creation week. The first miracle was not the curing of a blind man or healing or a leper. It was multiplication of alcohol at a wedding. It seems like a trivial use of God’s power!

At first it seems so, but a deeper look at John’s connection with the creation story and the history of the Catholic Church tells otherwise. First of all, it is Mary who intercedes on behalf of the wedding couple to her Son to perform the miracle. While the first woman [Eve] fell into sin, Mary conceived free from sin was instrumental in the miracle of Jesus’ public ministry.

Secondly, the resting of God on the 7th day of the initial creation week is a sort of celebration and similarly the wedding at Cana on the 7th day of the new creation week is celebratory in nature as well.

Finally, the Catholic Church’s liturgy is a combination of the Old Testament “resting on the Sabbath” when we rest in the pews and contemplate God’s word in the readings and homily along with the celebration akin to the Wedding at Cana banquet when we arise for Communion to eat at the Eucharistic feast.

wine

 

 

 

 

My view of the relationship of the Old and New Testament transformed after I learned about the connections between Genesis and the Gospel of John. I hope that in reading this post you gain a greater interest for the Holy Scriptures.

Related Links

Why Catholics MUST Have Bible ADD!- Intro

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 2- Miracles of Elisha and Jesus

Why Jesus Called Mary “Woman” at Cana


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Thank you for reading and hope you have a blessed day!


 

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Catholic Meme Monday— Issue 8

Hope you had a blessed Independence Day (to my American readers)and a wonderful weekend!

Time for another Catholic Meme Monday:

Think twice before using this Christian pick up line. 😉
DJ pope in the house!
😅😆🙂
Totally going to use this next time I get hit with anti-Catholic rhetoric online. 😉
“When you sing you pray twice.” —Saint Augustine
Checkmate Satan.

That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The Simple Catholic blog.

Thank you for sharing!