Spirituality for Today – May 2008 – Volume 12, Issue 10

The Artist

By Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

A photo of a paintbrush on a canvas with paintAcross a blood-bruised sky, churning up the land, the grey-coned wrath of nature approached. Twitching bodies, clinging to the cold, sturdy cement walls of a small basement room, waited anxiously. Above them comes a raucous noise like a passing freight train. Everyone holds their breath and prays. Then, as quickly as it arrived, it leaves. All is still again. The lives and the world of those grateful people, however, have been changed beyond their imagining.

In another place and time, a very different group of people huddled together as a sound like a powerful wind filled the room that they occupied and something that would change their lives forever filled them. This event was not one of destruction but of creation. For once again, the power of the Most High descended on a chosen people and brought forth a divine/human conception. The Church had been born. What so often is said of a newborn may be spoken of the infant Church: "What a beautiful baby!"

Curiously, one might give pause to the idea of speaking of the Church as beautiful or as a beautiful creation. Appellations such as the People of God, the Body of Christ, Holy Mother, or even as a ship rescuing souls from the storm-tossed sea of life are fitting, but as an object of art? Viewing the Holy Spirit as a guide, teacher, mentor, and a divine protector is appropriate, but as an artist? Church buildings invite aesthetic consideration. Making such a judgment about Church communities is unusual to say the least. Yet, one might conclude that appraising a people imbued with the Spirit of wisdom, truth, and love to be beautiful is a sensible and agreeable assessment.

On that Pentecost, the Holy Spirit applied a brushstroke of that wisdom, truth and love to each person there. The hue and texture of the gifts bestowed befitted the uniqueness of each recipient. Upon that human canvass, the Artist strived to reveal an unfolding beauty to all of creation. The achievement of the finished product was a task unlike that of the earthly artist. For this endeavor, the material with which the Artist worked was a sapient being. Completion of the original vision became a collaborative effort. The theme and goal of the grand idea of the Artist had to be sought by the work of art itself. In this case, the canvass, the clay, the block of marble, the piece of wood was able to act freely and may either accept or reject the wishes of the Artist. This was God's great gamble with the human race: the innate risk of truly loving and hoping to be truly loved.

An artist's conceptualization of his or her project is an act of inspiration. What was the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Perhaps, returning to the beginning of Salvation History, to the Book of Genesis, will provide an answer? The creation of the human being – male and female – was an expression, an outpouring of God's love. Human beings were fashioned in the image and likeness of God. They were beings capable of relating to God at an intimate level. Of all the creatures of the earth, it is the human alone that is capable of true love, of appreciating the beauty of God's handiwork, and in participating in the fulfillment of God's design. Sharing in such power and in such a responsibility, there is little wonder that one must acknowledge that the mystery and guidance of the Holy Spirit is meant to abide with humanity throughout time. From the dawn of human existence until this very day, men and women gaze longingly toward the heavens seeking the embrace of the One who gave them life. Encompassed by that eternal love, all of humanity is called to respond wholeheartedly through lives that witness to the presence of that love.

A beautiful object of art is the result of a lengthy and deliberate process. A beautiful individual is a work of art that takes a lifetime to complete. In reference to a human lifetime, what does a beautiful life signify? One would suppose that the artistry of the Holy Spirit assisted by the individual's purposefulness would portray the beautiful as the true, the loving, the virtuous, and the principled. Beauty should manifest faith and the gentle strength of grace. A beautiful life is prayerfully connected to God and, so assured, is caringly connected to others. Openness to the influence of the grace of the Holy Spirit is requisite for making one's life authentically beautiful.

There is a saying that goodness enhances beauty. If the self-portrait of one's life is viewed as something beautiful, it is because of the goodness reflected there. The work is not simply the creation of the individual; there is the hand of another Artist present.