TOROK: Seeking God through the beauty of Christian art

June 11, 2019

Years ago, when I began volunteering in youth ministry, I was a part of the Confirmation retreat team.

One year when the retreat fell on my birthday, a team member who was an artist by hobby gave me a sketch he had drawn as a birthday gift. It was an image of a man at a potter’s wheel. I kept the sketch in a place where I could periodically pause and pray with it.

Sometimes during my daily routine, I would catch a glance at the sketch and be drawn to prayer. It became a symbol that reminded me to stop and reflect on how God is calling me to serve in my ministerial life as well as in my everyday life. This became a time of peaceful surrender to God; a time of listening rather than petitioning.

The youth at the retreat were very attracted by the leader’s artwork. A couple of youth said they, too, were artists. One commented he likes to sketch when he needs to sit and think. Many youth and adults alike are called to God through art.

There is beauty and intrigue in Christian art that may draw one to the Creator who shows us beauty, truth and goodness. 

There is beauty and intrigue in Christian art that may draw one to the Creator who shows us beauty, truth and goodness.
Church paintings, stained glass windows and statues of saints were initially intended to teach the truths of the faith. Old European churches were inspiringly ornate with art.

When Notre Dame de Paris was on fire, people all over the world were devastated at the thought that the beauty of the church might be lost. The sad event drew many people from all over the world to God in prayer, asking that all would be well with these treasured works of art and architecture.

Like many of the artworks in church buildings, the artwork I was given was sketched based on Scripture taken from Isaiah 64:8: “But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.” It inspired me to search for other places in sacred Scripture that referred to potters and clay. One Scripture I found was in Jeremiah 18 where God tells the prophet to go to the potter’s house, and there he will give him a message.

When Jeremiah arrives at the potter’s house, he gazes on the work of the potter. When he sees the dynamics of the potter’s work, the word of the Lord comes to him. Such is the work of God today; whether it be in the art of centuries past or the art in our very own parishes today, when we seek God through the beauty of Christian art, that surrender to God brings us to beauty, truth and goodness where the grace of God abounds.

For a fruitful prayer time, consider visiting a parish to gaze and reflect upon artwork and attentively search for God’s message. Like Jeremiah, we may find God speaking to us through the artist’s craftsmanship.

Halleluiah! Christ lives.

Norma Torok is an associate director of the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.

 

Teen Talk: How can art help you surrender to God?
Teens in the Archdiocesan Youth Council share their own faith life experiences.

“For me, art can take many forms. The form that really makes me think about God is music. Not just any music, but the worship songs that praise God. When I listen to this type of music, I often find myself being immersed with the lyrics, and really understanding what they truly mean. A time when I truly feel this with music is when my youth group has an XLT, which is Adoration with music. During this time, I feel like God is speaking to me through the music.”
- Danielle M., Mary Queen

“Throughout time art has been used as a form of expression. Whether it is in the form of paintings, poems, photography and even music can be considered an art used to express emotions and feelings. Art can also be used as a way to help one pray. To help one meditate and reflect on God.”
- Samantha R., St. Cyril of Alexandria

“While praying, sometimes it is difficult to pray to somebody you cannot visualize on your own. Having an image of whoever you are praying to can make it easier to pray. The image allows you to see them and talk to them without feeling lost. For example, it is hard to have an emotional conversation over text. It is easier to talk in person.”
- Gaby Y., Sts. Simon & Jude