Redeeming the World in John Paul II's Letter to Artists

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

Early in his "Letter to Artists," which he offered on Easter Sunday in 1999, Pope John Paul II describes the connection between God the Creator and the artist or the craftsman.  God the Creator made something out of nothing, while the craftsman "uses something that already exists, to which he gives form and meaning" (1).  He writes:
With loving regard, the divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in his creative power. (1)

In the section of the letter entitled "The Special Vocation of the Artist," he discusses the connection between the artistic and moral life for the artist:
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 . . . Works of art speak of their authors; they enable us to know their inner life, and they reveal the original contribution which artists offer to the history of culture. (2)

Toward the end of his letter, he includes an appeal to artists:
Human beings, in a certain sense, are unknown to themselves.  Jesus Christ not only reveals God, but "fully reveals man to man."  In Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself.  All believers are called to bear witness to this; but it is up to you, men and women who have given your lives to art, to declare with all the wealth of your ingenuity that in Christ the world is redeemed: the human person is redeemed, the human body is redeemed, and the whole creation which, according to Saint Paul, "awaits impatiently the revelation of the children of God" (Rom. 8:19), is redeemed.  The creation awaits the revelation of the children of God also through art and in art.  This is your task.  Humanity in every age, and even today, looks to works of art to shed light upon its path and its destiny. (14)