Fragments of Light

Epiphanies of Beauty

In his 1999 Letter to Artists, His Holiness Pope John Paul II addresses his remarks:

To all who are passionately dedicated
to the search for new “epiphanies” of beauty
so that through their creative work as artists
they may offer these as gifts to the world.

“passionately dedicated to the search for new ‘epiphanies’ of beauty . . . “

Whence come the visions, euphonies, and brilliant flashes of insight that stop us in our tracks, leave us speechless, and call us out of ourselves? Unbidden, unannounced, and unconstrained these epiphanies come to us all from time to time. When we take up a creative task, however, we become the seekers, the listeners at the keyhole, the scouts about the haunts of mystery.

What is this work of searching? Is it about the labor of flinging wide the portals; the fidelity of setting down what is brought to our attention; or the faithful marking and following of trails? If Beauty is a grace that rather than being sought seeks after us, then what role have we to play? Are we the pursuers or is it Beauty who gives ” unhurrying chase”?

13 thoughts on “Epiphanies of Beauty

  1. One of the most beautiful sights I have seen reflected the power of God. As I was flying in a little plane over the snow covered mountains of Afghanistan, I was moved by the beauty of His Creation. From my view, I could see the mountains towering over ribbons of river flowing through valleys below, with a few small homes dotting the landscape of each valley. I thought of the seclusion people live in and wondered how people could live in such an isolated environment. I thought of how the people in each of the valleys are not likely aware of the people in the next valley. I thought of how beautiful, and yet how imposing, the mountains were and how difficult it would be to cross them. Then, the thought struck me like lightning flashing in my brain, “This is just a smidgeon of what God has created.” I was totally in awe and humbled by our Creator God. This knowledge also encouraged me and provided the courage I would need in the future.

  2. Having just returned home, fresh from our Theophany/Epiphany service at Saint Luke Orthodox Church, I find these matters all the more profound. The work, it seems to me, is primarily one of preparing to see as fully as possible what lies before us. The work at hand for the artist is to be diligent in every preparation—attaining skill, increasing capacity, becoming prayer—and thereafter bringing all these things to bear upon witnessing (both apprehending and coming to provisional terms with) the inexhaustible.

  3. May I offer a song here? Two winters ago, I went to a cabin in the Canadian Whiteshell for five days, hoping to complete a song I had been working on for some time. It was a very frustrating few days, digging for something I knew was there but couldn't unearth. On day four, I recieved an email from English poet Malcolm Guite which included a sonnet he had just written for the Feast of Epiphany. In the email was a link to a corresponding homily he preached a few weeks earlier. I put down my shovel (so to speak) and took in the sonnet and homily. It's as if I were suddently enveloped in a cloud, and an hour later, when the cloud lifted, this song was born. This often happens. I'm chasing one thing only to discover I'm being chased by another.

    The song I went to the cabin to write, didn't get completed for several months after.

    See "Epiphany on the Jordan" :

  4. This post is beautifully written. It is good to be reminded of the mystery of God who chases after us and yet also is the Friend Who waits for us and to Whom we pray, “Help me desire to make room for you.” As an epiphany literally means something or someone “shown” to us, I am reminded to pray, “Lord, open my eyes to see.” This offering of words reminds me to make the simplest requests before God. I am thankful that, though I often do not see the beauty right here, right now, that as you remind us by quoting Francis Thompson, God gives “unhurrying chase,” at an “unperturbèd pace, / Deliberate speed, majestic instancy.”

  5. Thanks, Carmen.
    Yes, I’m very fond of Francis Thompson’s poetry. It is interesting to me that in his ​essay on Shelley, which he begins with an admonition to the Church, both pastors and ‘pious liacs’ (laymen), to heed not only theology but poetry as well, says:

    You proclaim the day which the Lord has made, and Poetry exults and rejoices in it. You praise the Creator for His works, and she shows you that they are very good.

    Good counsel, I think, for any Keepers of Culture.

  6. These are beautiful and helpful words. As one who is searching for my place in the world of creative writing, it is helpful for me to focus on the importance of receiving the grace of beauty. To be reminded it is not me who makes the epiphanies happen.

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