Today's Gospel tells us of Jesus' transfiguration. It is hope in the midst of Lent; a glimpse of the Divine in the midst of trials. Anyone who has had such a direct experience of God will never forget it. Mostly, though, we must experience God through more earthly means: the Scriptures, each other, breaking our own boundaries of fear to reach out to others.
An often overlooked means that God has given us to experience Himself is through beauty. Experiencing nature as a "calling card" from God is something that transcends denominational and religious affiliation, yet, is in danger of disappearing as more and more of us spend more and more time in front of computers and televisions. Too, during the sometimes bleak months of winter (February, somehow being the worst of them) it is easy to hibernate and begin to feel that Spring, and Resurrection will never come. It is why, I think, that God gave us the seasons-- to experience all around us, what is going on inside of us. As we allow our fallen natures to take over, we experience a kind of death. We realize that on our own, we are failing; we have failed. As we reach out to God in our helplessness, the first, tiny flowers of spring are seen blooming in the otherwise dead landscape. It gives us hope.
Man participates in creation
As human beings, God has given us the physical senses as a way to experience Himself. As human beings, we long to connect with our Creator and to express our desire and love for Him. When Jesus took Peter, James and John up on the mountain, they experienced, for a moment, the Transfigured Christ. They saw Jesus as He really is and received a foretaste of heaven.
In our imperfect humanness, we long to recreate this experience, not only for ourselves, but to show mankind the beauty of communion with our God. We do this by spiritual expression in art. For centuries, Christians, and especially Catholics, have expressed God and His Love through various artistic means. The height of the visual arts, and of music, it can be argued, has been achieved through this Christian longing. Taking Christ out of the culture has yielded mainly an anarchy of the senses and resulted in nonsensical "art."
Far from being a distraction, art, music and other physical expressions of worship, such as incense, can lift our hearts and minds up to the Lord, show our love for Him and illustrate scriptural truths to the world.
The contemporary liturgical and art renewal movements show that this physical expression of Truth is hardly dead. As much good as can be gleaned from our Protestant brethren, iconoclasm and the permanent stripping of our altars is not something to imitate. A spiritual world devoid of artistic beauty is one which comes perilously close to being devoid of God.