Finding something very beautiful is to have it awaken love in us. This is the unique work achieved by wonder.
One of the many possible ways to translate the word “wonder” into Spanish is asombro. When someone is asombrado, there is an understanding that something has acted upon them and that there has been a response, they have become wonder-filled beings. The word gives no clue as to the positivity or negativity of the encounter, which could have produced genuine fear, a moment of profound questioning, or the feeling of utter surprise or overwhelming delight. What is clear is that the encounter precipitates an awakening response and that the moment of asombro/wonder can have a variety of results, depending on what is encountered and how the human person or persons involved in the encounter react. At its most basic, wonder stops what is routine and causes asombro. When we become asombrados we are no longer able to cling to the illusion of control and omnipotence. We have been made small and take on the characteristics (in ourselves) of our awe-filled response.
—Cecilia González-Andrieu, Bridge to Wonder, Art as a Gospel of Beauty
Writing on the revelatory and prophetic power of art, González-Andrieu continues: “I find the radical ambiguity of wonder as asombro helpful. It forms a corrective against “prettiness,” or a surface understanding of wonder as only occasioned by what is perceived as uncomplicated and pleasing. The confrontation that brings us to wonder may also be one that centers on the exposition of evil. As John Paul II carefully notes, “Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption.” Christ on the cross is the ultimate expression of this most frightening—and because of its redemptive character, also most beautiful—encounter.
A challenge to any complacent demand we may have that art be always pleasant.