Let me say that in another way. In liturgy, in our sacred worship, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder.
A “beautiful” liturgy is not one that satisfies the taste of the consumer. It is not a marketing promotion. It is not a consumer good…God forbid that we see the liturgy of the Church as a supermarket, where we can pick and choose elements according to our taste and will!
The liturgy is, first and foremost, the work of God, of adoration, reception, bestowal of grace, of Christ Himself. It is a mistake, really, to apply secular and cultural standards of aesthetic taste to the liturgy.
The spiritual beauty of the sacred liturgy transforms the lives of Catholics. As the Pope (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) said in an August 2002 message “The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes.”
When the spiritual beauty of the sacred liturgy has transformed a soul, man can then create things of beauty…. art, architecture, poetry, and music.
As we approach Holy Week, as we help in our parish and prepare for the Easter Triduum, we reflect on the importance of the sacred. In our liturgy. In our music in our Church, our icons, our art, our tabernacles, our statues, the vestments of the priests, the candles, the chant, the architecture.
Sometimes, the banal and vulgar invade our sanctuaries…, in what Pope John Paul II called in Ecclesia de Eucharistia a misguided sense of creativity.
As we restore the sacred, the beauty, the objective beauty of the sacred liturgy, we restore man’s faith; we set an example to the world; we inspire men in faith and life and art.
By objective beauty, I mean not following a fashion in liturgy but holding the sacred to a time worthy non secular standard..in other words..what has been done by the Church in the past? Why? Does this lift our hearts and minds towards God? Does this teach the faithful?
Is this a sacred action surpassing all others (Sacrosanctum Concilium) ?
Beginning with external fidelity to the rubrics, and leading to internal union with Christ, for those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:24).
If the beauty of vestments, tabernacles, statues, chant, the words and gestures of the mass, if this beauty is not of grave importance, if it is inspired by passing fad or whim or personal taste, then why has the Church invested so much of its history to fostering these ..this liturgy, these sacred arts?
God has placed a desire in the human soul to create beautiful things. God wishes for man to share in His masterpiece of creation… that which is good and beautiful. We can foster this excellence, we can seek beauty in Holy Week, in Maundy Thursday, the Chrism Mass, the Altar of Repose, the Passion, the Stations of the Cross, the Easter Vigil, in the celebration of the sacred liturgy, by the enhancement of the sacred arts.
We can be sure that whoever sneers at Beauty’s name . . . can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love. Hans Urs von Balthasar, preface to The Glory of the Lord
Beauty in the liturgy results from order. This is why the liturgy, by its very nature, demands order.