Revelation and the Beautiful, Art and the Holy Spirit

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

In the first volume of his Explorations in Theology (public library), subtitled The Word Made Flesh, Hans Urs von Balthasar includes an essay entitled "Revelation and the Beautiful."  He includes the aesthetic element of revelation and the aesthetic element in theology in his discussion.

In the last paragraph of the conclusion of the essay, Balthasar speaks to the connection between the work of the artist and the Holy Spirit:

Beauty is not subject to man's command, and nothing is freer, less subject to hard and fast rules than the balance between the favorable historical circumstances in which great art appears and freedom of divine grace.  The latter is not there for the purpose of compensating the lack of the former.  Nonetheless the prayer of the artist for the right spirit and the right kind of inspiration has always been effective.  No matter how great the genius, he can no longer, now that the mystery of Christ has come to dwell with us, penetrate to the heart of beauty without the aid of the Holy Spirit.  If both cannot be conjoined perfectly - the gospel is no human work of art - it is always the function of a given epoch to make itself receptive to the art of the Holy Spirit, to let the power of love mold it, for it is the absence of this that explains the coldness of our own art; that fire alone can rekindle it.  Only one whose heart is attuned to the art of God can be expected to establish order and due proportion in the confusion and chaos of the present (126).

The Hand of Adam and the Hand of God - Sistine Chapel Ceiling - PD-Art