Art is the creation of something beautiful, and the quest for the arts is the quest for beauty. The arts belong solely to the realm of human creativity because they please the intellect by pleasing the senses. Museums known for their beautiful collections await art enthusiasts. It is remarkable to see at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for example, families with very young children appreciating the wonder of each work of art. Parents have expressed their determination to develop their children’s love of art and of all things beautiful given the fact that there is so much ugliness in the world.
Knowledge, Reading, and Closing the Opportunity Gap
Until the discovery of the printing press in 1495, the privilege of reading belonged exclusively to the wealthy class. Today, many of us use our eyes in front of a screen either for work or for entertainment. When children are old enough to read, they should read much and well. In doing so, their imaginations are stimulated, their vocabulary, expanded and enriched, and they size up the characters about whom they read before holding them up as role models. Reading makes one’s world grow larger. One need only look to young Abraham Lincoln who could not read enough books to satiate his thirst for learning. His speeches, so beautifully written, are those which we most commit to memory.
Darkness and the Light of the World
Jesus tells us that those who follow him will never walk in dark but will have the light of life. Still, there is such a thing as a normal darkness of soul which he himself experienced in his passion. Today, financial uncertainty can bring about a darkness that reacts normally to negative circumstances. This sadness of soul differs from clinical depression, that is, abnormal reactions caused by internal dysfunction. Hostility to God, either implicitly or explicitly, can also descend as cultural darkness. But this is the world to which the Messiah brought new life.
The Book of Genesis narrates: “Then God said: “Let there be light.” When Jesus spoke the words, “I am the light of the world,” he was conferring the supreme dignity on light which the Godhead had created. For us, the polarity of light and darkness is universally felt, and it is a reflection of life versus death, awareness versus ignorance as natural counterparts of good versus evil, delight versus dread, enlightenment versus superstition, clarity versus obscurity, brilliance versus dullness.
Seeing the Glory of the Lord in All Things
In the Book of Exodus, Moses asks God, “Do let me see your glory!” The Lord answers:
I will make all my beauty pass before you and in your presence, I will pronounce my name, ‘Lord;’ I will show favor to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will. But my face you cannot see, for no man see me and still lives.” (Ex:33).
The phrase, “the glory of the Lord,” defies definition, although to the Jews, it represented God in human form. The phrase has an iridescence as does no other word. Divine glory unites God’s beauty, holiness, and love. Glory forms not only the content but also the underlying theme of Scripture, and the word occurs almost two hundred times both in the Hebrew scriptures and in the Christian. Like Moses, though we see now only as in a faint mirror , we are destined to see the glory of God face to face. The first Preface for Christmas expresses liturgically Händel’s contemplative moment, caught up in a vision of God:
In the mystery of the Word made flesh,
a new light of your glory has shone upon the eyes of our mind,
so that, as we recognize in him God made visible,
we may be caught up through him in love of things invisible.