Pope Benedict’s Gift to Artists

On Saturday, I unexpectedly received a “last gift” from Pope Benedict that will serve as a source of my reflection and prayer for some time to come. In his address at the conclusion of his Lenten retreat, Pope Benedict explains that medieval theologians translated the word “logos”  not just as “word,” but also as “art,” and that “logos” can only be fully understood when both terms are referred to together. While Blessed John Paul II (in his Letter to Artists and elsewhere) talked about the connection between truth and beauty, Pope Benedict says here that truth and beauty (word and art) are so intimately connected to each other that they are inseparable. Yet, sin seeks to make both truth and beauty unrecognizable. Pope Benedict goes on to give us a striking image of beauty’s portrayal in a world marred by sin: Jesus crowned with thorns.

I will be unpacking the implications of this short message for Christian storytelling for a long time. Though only two or three paragraphs long, this message from Pope Benedict provides great insight for writers, artists, and anyone who seeks to communicate Christ. His message is more than a justification for using art to communicate Christ; it is a dense explanation of why and how narrative and beauty serve the Truth. (And thus it also speaks to the question: “What is true art?”)

Unfortunately, I cannot post the entire message here, as the translation is not available on the Vatican website, but I encourage you to visit the translated message on Zenit’s site. (If you speak Italian, read it in the original here.) I will miss Pope Benedict’s piercing clarity, but I’m hoping that his time of retirement and prayer will allow him to continue writing.

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