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Saint Thomas On Beauty

Divine Worship: St. John's Ordinariate Parish, Calgary, AB.

A reminder—on beauty and beautiful liturgy—from a Crisis Magazine article by John Paul Meenan entitled Restore Liturgical Beauty with Chant and Polyphony.

The Objectivity of Beauty

To discern what makes a thing beautiful, Saint Thomas offers three criteria:

First, there is proportionality, which means all of its parts must fit together, and be of an equitable size, shape and configuration so as to please.

Second, there is integrity, that the being must lack none of its essential parts.

Third, and most foundational, there is clarity, that the being must signify and shine forth what it really is, in accord with its form or species.

Meenan adds:

When we apply these criteria to Liturgy, we may conclude with liturgical scholars such as Josef Ratzinger, Uwe Lang and others, that the beauty of liturgy consists in expressing what stands behind the veil of the sacramental signification, the eternal realities towards which we strive, or what we might term transcendence and liminality (from limina, “threshold”). That is, Liturgy should lift us in mind and heart beyond this world, to that heavenly realm which is yet to arrive in its fullness at the end of time, for which we must prepare, but in some way is already here, inchoately. Most of our lives are immersed in the secular and temporal, the “form of this world” which is passing away, and we must, through Liturgy, and most of all the Holy Mass, keep our “minds fixed on things above.”

The beauty of the Ordinariate Liturgy, called Divine Worship, is evident every Sunday. It is a privilege and obligation to offer the Mass with dedication, care and a mind to beauty, in gratitude for the supreme gift of salvation offered by our Lord Jesus Christ. Can we offer anything less than our best for our Saviour Who died that man may be restored to friendship with God and thus be raised to life eternal?

Beauty is meaning. Meaning, i.e., truth, attracts. The mission is the Mass; the Mass is the mission. When the Mass is beautiful, there is no need for clever attempts to win converts. Jesus, clearly seen in and through the Sacred Liturgy, attracts all who, with a sincere heart, seek Him—the Way, the Truth and the Life.