On February 24, I unexpectedly received a “last gift” from Pope Benedict (now Pope Emeritus) that will serve as a source of my reflection and prayer for some time to come as writer and storyteller. In his address at the conclusion of his Lenten retreat, Pope Benedict explains that medieval theologians translated the word “logos” not just as “word,” but also as “art,” and that “logos” can only be fully understood when both terms are referred to together. While Blessed John Paul II (in his Letter to Artists and elsewhere) talked about the connection between truth and beauty, in his address, Benedict says that truth and beauty (word and art) are so intimately connected to each other that they are inseparable. He also said that sin seeks to make both truth and beauty unrecognizable. The address goes on to give us a striking image of beauty’s portrayal in a world marred by sin: Jesus crowned with thorns.
I will be unpacking the implications of this short message for Christian storytelling for a long time. Though only two or three paragraphs long, this message provides great insight for writers, artists, and anyone who seeks to communicate Christ. His message is more than a justification for using art to communicate Christ; it is a dense explanation of why and how narrative and beauty serve the Truth. (And thus it also speaks to the question: “What is true art?”)
It is well worth spending the couple minutes it will take you to read the translated message on Zenit’s site. (If you speak Italian, read it in the original here.) For me, this message is something to inspire and carry me through these days of “desert waiting,” as I reflect on the gifts of Pope Benedict’s pontificate and pray to the Holy Spirit for His continued guidance in leading the Church (and the world) further into this millennium.