The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes . . .
For me an unforgettable experience was the Bach concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted in Munich after the sudden death of Karl Richter. I was sitting next to the Lutheran Bishop Hanselmann. When the last note of one of the great Thomas-Kantor-Cantatas triumphantly faded away, we looked at each other spontaneously and right then we said: “Anyone who has heard this, knows that the faith is true”. The music had such an extraordinary force of reality that we realized, no longer by deduction, but by the impact on our hearts, that it could not have originated from nothingness, but could only have come to be through the power of the Truth that became real in the composer’s inspiration.
—“The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty,” Message of His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the Communion and Liberation Meeting at Rimini (24-30 August, 2002)
In his thoughts on contemplating beauty the then Cardinal Ratzinger goes on to say:
“To admire the icons and the great masterpieces of Christian art in general, leads us on an inner way, a way of overcoming ourselves; thus in this purification of vision that is a purification of the heart, it reveals the beautiful to us, or at least a ray of it. In this way we are brought into contact with the power of the truth. I have often affirmed my conviction that the true apology of Christian faith, the most convincing demonstration of its truth against every denial, are the saints, and the beauty that the faith has generated. Today, for faith to grow, we must lead ourselves and the persons we meet to encounter the saints and to enter into contact with the Beautiful.”
What is this “inner way?” What is this personal pilgrimage which requires not only that we pay attention to the beauty we encounter but also that, in the face of that Beauty, we must apply the honesty and self awareness that leads to our own repentance? This is a way which requires the unity our heart and our will as one.