Our creativity is an outpouring from the human soul. It breaks out in brilliant, spectacular ways. The creativity of every individual shines through his or her God-given gifts. But this is not the full extent of God’s relationship with humanity’s artistic expression.
If we look around us, and it’s not like we have to look very hard, we find beauty. Within the natural world, God has shared with us an abundance of beauty, of which he is the source. In seeking beauty, in admiring it, and in giving shape to beauty, we can experience our Creator. It is through the lens of beauty that our senses are focused on the spiritual. There is something more behind the tangible beauty of physical creation. Behind and beyond lies the ultimate, unending Beauty. And this Beauty is the Beatific Vision, the Face of God.
Physical beauty is the verdant fields and the sun. It is in the kitten’s sleek coat of fur. It’s in lilies and evergreens and vibrant cherries. It fills the air with the energy of melody. It’s spread far and wide across the heavens, among serene worlds and passionate stars. It’s in the eyes of every child of God.
God has freely bestowed his unique gifts to his sons and daughters, making all of us artists according to his design. More than this, he has also provided the very substance with which human creativity is made possible. As we know, “The Lord himself is giver of wisdom” (Proverbs 2:6). Wisdom is to be shared with others and is meant to draw us into a better life and to be closer to God. Similarly, God gives beauty, and beauty ought to be shared with others through artistic expression. At the same time, natural beauty – along with our co-creativity – calls humanity’s attention to the primal Beauty.
God Provides the Matter for Our Creativity
God brought the cosmos and all of its laws and subjects into being. He has provided natural beauties and wonders to strike awe into our hearts. He has incorporated intellect into the human person: an intellect to see patterns and make dreams.
Beyond this, the most sublime and holiest of gifts was granted us by God the Father in the Incarnation of Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. The Gospels include several beautiful synonyms for Our Lord which reflect his significance as the basis for all the arts. Two of the most important of these titles are found in the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John in some of the most commonly-read verses of Scripture. The Evangelist’s famed introduction reads, “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) This highlights Christ as the Logos, the Word of God made flesh. Jesus is the living, breathing Word: the story of salvation in its climactic moment of fulfilment – God made man. Just a few lines down we find, “All that came to be had life in him and that life was the light of men, a light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower… The Word was the true light that enlightens all men; and he was coming into the world” (John 1:4-5;9).
In merely a couple of short verses, the Gospel writer instantly calls attention to God’s role as creator, sustainer, and influencer. Specifically, as an “influencer” – or the light that enlightens, God instils in us the ability, even the longing to be co-creators with himself, to bring beauty to those around us.
God Himself Serves as the Essence of the Arts
Returning to the notion of God as creator, we find that God is the origin of all art, just as he is the origin of all in existence. When we call Our Lord “truth,” “life,” “light,” and “the Word,” it draws attention to our complete and utter dependence on God for all that we have. For God is being itself. He is behind the creation of every faculty at humanity’s disposal.
Is it funny to think of God as the essence, the very being of the arts? No. For without words, without any language, there wouldn’t be any literature. In the absence of light, the image of painter, photographer, and filmmaker is inseparable from the void. The hues of visible light make up every colour imaginable, without which art would often risk being a dreary bore. The entire substance of creation owes its existence to its Creator. It is Our Lord who has supplied the expanse of his creation with such blessings, and he fulfils them.
Our Share in Creativity
Some of the most renowned saints have recognized God’s role as simultaneously one of Provider, Saviour, and Inspirer. Many saints are known to have been blessed with acute artistic skills. And many more have since become patrons of various creative fields.
For example, St Cecilia, patroness of musicians, has long held a reputation for preserving her virginity and for her singing. St Francis de Sales, an excellent author, is hailed as the patron of writers and has been honoured as a Doctor of the Church. I certainly find particular devotion to him in my passion for writing. St Maximillian Kolbe began the publication of Militia Immaculatae and, before his self-sacrificial martyrdom, had plans to begin a film studio. St Catherine of Bologna, skilled in dancing, singing, painting, and poetry, is called upon as patroness of artists. St Veronica is the patroness of photographers. Such a list of saintly artists could continue indefinitely.
When humans are in a close relationship with God, they reflect his beauty. Light and language, truth and beauty: all have God as their origin. Art is a manifestation of both the divine and the human spirit: God as the director and provider, and the human person as the one offering his talents to God.
Art’s Transformative Function
If God then is meant to work through artists, it follows that genuine art ought to speak to us on a spiritual level. Beauty, especially in art, reveals and reaffirms truth. This is a message which the modern world needs. It needs the message of beauty. Catholics are called to rejuvenate the arts, to sort of breathe some life back into them.
This is done through growing closer to God, honing one’s skills, and seeking the Creator’s beauty wherever it may be. In every instance, God is ready to give – abundantly. He is ready to work through artists and bring beauty into the world. This type of creativity is a kind of evangelisation that deserves to be tapped into. We crave beauty, and it’s because true beauty leads towards God the Creator.