One of the most important revelations about our human existence is that we are each part of a rare and marvelous work of art. The Eternal Artist, the One who brought the universe forth as a magnificent expression of grace, created everything for us to experience beauty.
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.Genesis 1:31
Not only were we created for beauty, but we were also created as an element of that beauty; we are each a measure of God’s larger work of art. Indeed, our individual creation was modeled on the most beautiful being in the universe.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”Genesis 1:26
This is probably not something we think about when we reflect on our existence in the world. So often, the circumstances of life and our advancing years lead us to forget we are created as specific, unique and profoundly beautiful elements of artistic expression. The truth is each of us were contemplated, designed and brought into being with the careful detail of a master
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:10
Our lives are meant to be an expression of the beauty that resides within us, and we are intended to manifest our individual artistic contribution to God’s grand design.
Perhaps some of us do not think of ourselves as artistic. But we are not speaking of art in the traditional sense. Rather, we are referring to the act of making, of creating something meaningful, the very thing we all desire to do with our own lives.
Paul writes about this in his letter to the Ephesians. We are each created for good works, and God prepared them for us beforehand. It is our calling in life to walk in them. But just what are these good works?
Well, the greatest work of the human person, our highest form of artistic expression, is to give our lives over to the master craftsman. The purpose of our life is to allow God to complete the work He began in us at our creation.
This process is described in a wonderful book by Pope St. John Paul II. The work is actually based on a retreat he provided to artists in 1962 when he was Bishop Karol Wojtyla. The book is entitled, God is Beauty. The book describes the importance of the work of artists and of all human beings ‘created in the image of God.’
The central theme is best described in a quote from the book written by the Polish poet Zymunt Krasiński. While reflecting on man’s relationship with God and the art of making, Zymunt writes: “A stream of Beauty flows through you, but you yourself are not Beauty.”
Beauty, according to Wojtyla, refers to God. Though the artist can and should create beautiful works, just as we should do with our lives, God remains the supreme Creator. Our participation in this process is to dispose ourselves to the hand of God, and to allow Him to draw out of us the most beautiful expression of ourselves. This is only possible if we give ourselves over to the work of the Eternal Artist.
A Byzantine Catholic priest, Father Thomas Loya, explains this relationship in his reflection on the Third Lesson in Wojtyla’s book. He writes: “What distinguishes the human person from all other creatures on earth is that the human person alone is made for liturgy, for worship. We alone can ‘offer’.”
We are called to offer our very selves.
I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Romans 12:1
To be sure, the process of being fashioned into a magnificent work of art is not easy. There are times the artist will need to chip away at the rock to reveal the great sculpture hidden within. He may need to draft gifted prose to instruct us, or poetry to move our hearts. And there will be times when our lives enjoy the gentle strokes of the painter’s brush, which will draw out the brilliant hue and colors that form the glorious expressions of our lives. Finally, we will hear the symphony of sound that will blend with other souls, each of them equally beautiful expressions of the Master’s Brilliant final work.
And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.Philippians 1:6
Let us pray we might allow the Master Craftsman to shape our lives into the beautiful artistic expression He contemplated in us on the day of our birth.
Article Copyright © Deacon Mark Danis
Image credit: “Creation of Adam” (detail) | Michelangelo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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