Consideration of the liturgy and beauty is central to evangelization. Visual art in particular has a role to play - it teaches and informs us through its content, it's beauty helps to direct and deepen our worship of God in the liturgy and in a context outside the church, it's beauty draws all men to itself and then beyond to the source of all beauty, God, so opening their hearts to be receptive to the Word when offered to them. My good friends at the newly established School of the Annunciation situated in the grounds of Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England understand it deeply. I am delighted to learn of the launch of their Diploma in New Evangelization. Taught through a combination of residential weekends and online this means you can take it wherever you live.
The New Evangelization is a fashionable phrase to bandy about (to the degree that anything to do with the Faith can be fashionable!). When I finally read Benedict XVI's document on the subject, written as Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope, what struck me is the simplicity of what he described, but nevertheless how needed it is. He wrote first of the need for personal transformation through prayer centred on the liturgy; and the emphasis on communication of final judgement by a just and merciful judge and of sure and certain hope in eternal life that brings joy to us in this life. This is made evident most plainly by the joy with which we live our lives and the love we show to our fellows. This emphasis on the next life, it seemed to me, anticipated his encyclical Spe Salvi, in which he states that it is the absence of hope in salvation, because of an over reliance in mastery of the material world to provide the answers to human problems, that is a cause of the lack of faith that exists in the West today.
They have chosen this image to promote and encapsulate the essential aspects of the course, as explained in detail below. It is Nativity in the Initial P, c. 1395, by Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci (1339 – 1399). Tempera and gold on parchment, 570 x 380 mm from Gradual 1 for the Camaldolese monastery of San Michele a Murano (Folio 38v) (Sometimes thought to be from the Camaldolese monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Florence). Now in the Morgan Library and Museum, New York.
This illuminated page has been chosen to introduce the Via Pulchritudinis - the 'pathway of beauty' that leads to Beauty itself and is itself beautiful - that is a major feature of the Diploma, a distance-learning, interactive on-line course delivered by the School of the Annunciation situated in the stunning location of Buckfast Abbey, Devon UK. The School of the Annunciation is a Centre for the New Evangelisation and the Diploma has been designed by Dr Petroc Willey a Consultor for the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation, The Via Pulchritudinis that is part of and accompanies the whole program has been designed and written by Dr Caroline Farey, who is also a Consultor for the Council.
Dr Caroline Farey also leads the School of the Annunciation summer school in ‘Finding Faith through Sacred Art’, August 14-17th at the same magnificent location and its not too late to enrol for that too. You can enrol through their website.
In the next week I will post a fascinating detailed description of this illumination by Dr Farey, and an explanation as to why it communicates so beautifully communicates their intentions.