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Reflections on Creatio – Evangelizing through Beauty

Creatio has made an alliance with Creation to bring young men and women to God, and eventually to Christ, through beauty and love. Creatio is an initiative of the Holy Spirit to evangelize the youth appealing to what they have in their hearts: a longing for true beauty.

-Bishop Jorge Rodriguez

The following text was given as a speech by Bishop Jorge Rodriguez, the Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, at Creatio’s third annual fundraiser: Encounter the Beauty of the Cathedral Basilica

Many years ago, before I was a priest, I was assigned to a parish. In our Church we had a side chapel with a big crucifix on the wall. The last Sunday Mass was at 7 pm, and afterwards I was supposed to close the church. But several Sundays in a row I was delayed because a young man used to stay in that chapel, just standing looking intently at the Crucifix. After a couple of weeks of the same story, my instinct told me, “hey, that guy may be a good vocational prospect!” So, I approached him. No vocation at all: he told me he was a Jew. I was curious about his presence every Sunday looking at the Crucifix. I asked. His answer still keeps me thinking after more than 40 years: “It is so beautiful!”

How can a man, bleeding and hanging on a cross be beautiful?! For a Jew that probably was not familiar with the story and love behind the Crucified Man…was he referring to the piece of art? Did he mean the face of the crucified man full of sadness and peace? Was it the proportion of the masterpiece?

It makes sense Card. Ratzinger’s affirmation in his famous book, “The Spirit of the Liturgy” when he wrote: “ultimately beauty and God coincide.

Creatio seeks after beauty. Creatio seeks after God. Creatio discovers God in enjoying nature, in taking care of creation and in the face of the poor it serves. In other words, Creatio enjoys the beauty of God in those realities. Creatio evangelizes by leading people to enjoy beauty, and let the beauty of nature preach to young people about God.

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The High Mountains are mute. The silence around them is disturbed only by the whispering of the wind. The ocean only murmurs the sound of the water licking the sand  of the beach, or the blast of the waves. The stars in the sky just shine, their singing is unperceivable by our ears. The silence of the Canyons is impressive and intimidating. The pitter-patter of the rain is like childish music.

The mountains, the ocean, the stars, the canyons, the rivers don’t pronounce a single word we can understand. Their whispering, murmuring, blast or the pitter-patter of the rain is relaxing and sweet but not verbal. But all of them speak a sublime language that is not English, nor Spanish or any other human argot. They speak the divine language of beauty, that does not need translation because it speaks directly to a heart that longs for this message: beauty.

Suddenly, they all start speaking about God. The beauty of their grandiosity, their colors, their shapes, their texture, their movements, their twinkling, their placement, their height, their depth become the most eloquent pulpit to preach about God.

Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese-American writer, in his poem On Beauty, he says that “Beauty is soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit. Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow.” Beauty is ecstasy’ it is a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted; it is a garden forever in bloom and a flock of angels forever in flight. Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.

And what is that discourse that Nature and our Cosmos deliver? Here is St. Augustine’s response to our question.

“And what is this? I asked the earth, and it answered me, “I am not He”; and whatsoever are in it confessed the same. I asked the sea and the deeps, and the living creeping things, and they answered, “We are not thy God, seek above us.” I asked the moving air; and the whole air with his inhabitants answered… “I am not God. “I asked the heavens, sun, moon, stars, “Nor are we the God whom thou seekest.” And I replied unto all the things…“You have told me of my God, that you are not He; tell me something of Him.” And they cried out with a loud voice, “He made us. “My questioning them, was my thoughts on them: and their beauty gave me the answer.” (Confessions 10, 6)

What a great analysis of this dialogue we have when we contemplate the mountains, the skies or the oceans…. I observe with a silent question… they answer showing their beauty with the message: “He made us!” And this non-verbal answer is heard in the depth of the heart. Our dialogue with nature uses the non-verbal language of contemplation.

Nature and the whole Cosmos are great evangelizers. They don’t proselytize but move by attraction, by beauty.

Creatio has this truth in its heart: God evangelizes man through the work of His hands: a human face, our multi-color and multi-form nature, and the whole planet and cosmos…. creating them beautiful they express the greatness, the goodness and the Beauty of their Maker.

Creatio takes young people on hikes where along the way numberless creatures show their beauty calling them to discover the Creator in them. Young men and women feel that call in their hearts…. Pause to contemplate Pikes Peak, get involved in the silence of the mountain and listen to the mountain speaking to them: “He made us” and the young heart experiences the urgency to find the source of such beauty. Creatio has made an alliance with Creation to bring young men and women to God, and eventually to Christ, through beauty and love. Creatio is an initiative of the Holy Spirit to evangelize the youth appealing to what they have in their hearts: a longing for true beauty.

While you walk a trail or climb Mount Evans or walk the Camino of Compostela…from the tiny and humbly daisy to the high iced peaks, all creatures of nature sing the colorful and soundful hymn along your way: “He made us!” “Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord: You heavens, bless the Lord; Sun and moon, bless the Lord; Stars of heaven, bless the Lord; all you winds, bless the Lord; lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord; mountains and hills, bless the Lord; our springs, bless the Lord; seas and rivers, bless the Lord… Let the earth bless the Lord (Dan 3). And the pilgrim on this earth, responds instinctively in his or her heart: ‘O Lord, our God, how majestic is thy name in all the earth…When I look at thy heavens, the word of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou has established…what is man that thouh art mindful of him…though care for him!” (Ps 8) The beauty of nature has made man to raise his eyes to Heaven and begin a dialogue with God, spoken with the language of beauty.

Next door to my sister’s beach house, there was a family with an autistic 6-year-old little boy. The whole day, for long hours, that little boy did nothing else than to stand by the sea, the ocean bathing his feet, and looking intently at the sea, with his eyes totally immersed in the infinite ocean in front of him, like in deep contemplation of the melodious and rhythmic “candenza” of the sea…. hours and hours, without moving…it was painful seeing him hours under the sun….People were familiar with the situation and the scene…“well, it is the autistic little boy!”…..I wonder if, absorbed by the captivating beauty of the sea, God was talking to him.

The beauty of creation, the beauty of art, the beauty of a human face are God’s talking to us about his love, his power and his care for us.

May the Lord bless Creatio for evangelizing the world with the language of beauty, that is the language of God!

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