Writing to Catholics worldwide, not as a theologian, but as a personal pastor, the Holy Father explains in his post-synodal exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis that he wishes to encourage, “…the Christian people to deepen their understanding of the relationship between the Eucharistic mystery, the liturgical action, and the new spiritual worship which derives from the Eucharist as the sacrament of charity.”
One of the more intriguing sections is his reflection on our need for beauty or "what our souls desire." Made in the image and likeness of our God, we are drawn spontaneously toward beauty which is the reflection of the splendor of God’s glory. Pope Benedict reminds us that the Eucharist, “like the rest of Christian Revelation…is inherently linked to beauty.” Beauty is not “mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation,” adding that “This is no mere aestheticism, but the concrete way in which the truth of God's love in Christ encounters us, attracts us and delights us, enabling us to emerge from ourselves and drawing us towards our true vocation, which is love.”
The inherent beauty of the Eucharist is reflected in the “sense of the sacred and the use of outward signs which help to cultivate this sense” for “everything related to the Eucharist should be marked by beauty.” The harmony of the ritual itself; the vestments; the furnishings; the sacred vessels; the music, especially Gregorian chant; even the space of worship itself combine to “foster awe for the mysteries of the God.” When we come to the Eucharist, our souls truly find what they desire most on every level.
While the Holy Father is talking specifically about beauty with regard to the celebration of the Eucharist, his thoughts about the need for beauty extend in our daily lives as well.
- What are some ways to bring beauty in your life?
- How do your surroundings help stimulate an awe for God's creation?
- Do you consider beauty a luxury or a necessity?
- Some people suggest that if an item isn't beautiful or useful, you should get rid of it. How do you feel about that?
Read Sacramentum Caritatus and tour Vatican museums on the Vatican's website.