Monday, October 8, 2012

Emily's Consecration Trailer and Some Reflections on Consecrated Virginity, Art and the Theology of the Body

I'd like to share this beautiful short video which captures the beauty of the day my friend, Emily, recieved the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity. (Emily is the model for my St. Lucy project underway, which I have written about in a previous post).

Emily Byers Consecration Trailer from Infinite Focus Video Productions on Vimeo.

Her friend's video production company did this, and I have to say they did a fine job.
I percieve a connection between consecrated virginity and the main topics of this blog--art and Blessed Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Perhaps I can demonstrate this connection by relating each subject-- consecrated virginity, art, and the Theology of the Body to the word "sacramentality", the title of this blog.

The root of "sacramentality" is "sacrament".  In the narrowest sense of the term, a sacrament is one of the seven sacraments of the Church which are visible signs instituted by Christ which confer the grace they signify.  For example, in the sacrament of baptism, the water used to baptize has a sign value of cleansing and purification.  This signifies the grace which this sacrament confers-- a cleansing or purification of our sins.  Baptism actually washes away our sin, making us new.

Though the word "sacrament" can also be more broadly applied to creation as a whole. In a way that is related to how baptism makes visible an invisible mystery of God--the forgiveness of our sins through the sign of cleansing with water-- all of God's creation signifies or makes visible something about the invisible Creator-God.  A beautiful sunset speaks to us about the beauty of God.  God's strength is spoken of in the strengh of a lion.  God's fecundity can be pointed towards by the richness and diversity of plant and animal life in a rainforest. In way that is related to how God commuicates grace to us and gives us spiritual life through the sacrament of baptism,  God's communication of Himself through His creation, is in a certain sense a conduit of grace. Through creation we come to know God more deeply in a way that is life-giving 

 Blessed John Paul II in his "Letter to Artists" wrote the following:

In producing a work, artists express themselves to the point where their work becomes a unique disclosure of their own being, of what they are and of how they are what they are. And there are endless examples of this in human history. In shaping a masterpiece, the artist not only summons his work into being, but also in some way reveals his own personality by means of it.

He goes on to write that "through his works, the artist speaks to others and communicates with them" and that "works of art speak of their authors; they enable us to know their inner life".

In his letter, Blessed John Paul II asserts that the artist is an image of God the Creator.  He addresses this point to artists by writing that " "like the artists of every age"—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you.

By saying that the artist is an image of God the Creator and that the work of an artist communicates or makes visible in some way the invisible inner life of the artist, Blessed John Paul II is saying that creation reveals something about  God the Creator, the Artist with a capital "A" as a work of art reveals something about the artist.  One could adapt the following sentence which is one of the excerpts from the pope's letter I have shared above by substituting in "God the Artist" where it speaks of "the artist": "In producing a work, God the Artist express Himself to the point where His work becomes a unique disclosure of His own being".  Also: "In shaping a masterpiece (the created world), God the Artist not only summons His work into being, but also in some way reveals His own personality by means of it."

 To the extent that the artist participates or "co-creates" with God the Creator in making visible the invisible mystery of God, their art has a sacramental character. God has made the artist as an image of Himself as participate with Him in communicating, by making visible, the spiritual and divine.

While all of physical creation is sacramental in the looser sense of the term, out of all creation it is the human body which most particularly "makes visible the invisible mystery of God" This idea is clearly expressed in Blessed John Paul II's "thesis statement" for his Theology of the Body:

The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus be a sign of it.

-Pope John Paul II, General Audience of Wednesday, February 20th, 1980

The human person, revealed through the body, is exalted above all creation in being made in the "image and likeness of God". (Genesis 1:27)  Sometimes we are apt to think that being made in the "image and likeness of God" pertains soley to the human soul or spirit.   While it is true that the spiritual has primacy over the is not true that the body is disconnected from the soul. Our bodies actually communicate the spiritual mystery of the person. For example, a smile physically through the body, expresses or make svisible the movement of a person's soul toward delight or kindness. Our bodies are designed with meaning and have great significance, so much so Blessed John Paul II has proposed that we can study God through studying the human body...hence a "theology of the body". The Catholic faith is totally immersed in making "visible the invisible mystery of God" and is deep in her awareness of the sacramentality of all physical creation, particularly the human body as is expressed through her art (which is largely figuratively based) and her theological reflection. Consecrated Virginity is yet another expression of this.

The consecrated virgin is particular sign of the Church as bride. She signifies, in her person, the mystery of Christ's spousal relationship with the entire Church. It is in this way that art, the Theology of the Body, Consecrated Virginity, are all particular expression of the Church's drive to make ever-more visible the invisible mystery of God.