This is the English translation with additional thoughts of my sermon for Saint Cecilia.
From the beginning, the Church has always beeen the friend, the protector and even sometimes the inspiration of the Arts. These are indeed the expression of beauty. Therefore, they are in a way an expression of God, of His transcendence, His being, His goodness and His truth.
Due to the faith of our Elders that has changed the face of the earth to the extend that it has generated a true civilization, a Christian Art appeared on earth, which finds its roots in the Mystery of the Incarnation. We think that it is a peculiar fruit of a civilization to produce Arts. We consequently thinks that the so-called “modern-Arts” that seem to us to be “anti-Arts” are the fruits of the non-civilization we live in and that we would like to live down. “The art establishment has turned away from the old curriculum which puts beauty and craft at the top of the agenda”, Roger Scruton says.
Because God became man, so that the God-Man can recapitulate all things, man can now get close to his Creator. So do all the spheres of human society when inspired by faith. Then the Arts are a powerful means of approaching God. We like to consider Christian Arts as a beautiful, worth and noble way to recapitulate all things in Christ, because He is truly the One who is the primary subject and the center of Christian Arts and He is the One who gives them their dignity. The very fact of the Incarnation could not have been ignored by the artists who came to its knowledge.
The Church, in her great wisdom would have understood it well. She quickly learnt how to implement in her liturgy an exquisite and sublime Art at the service of the greatest and most necessary work on earth: the adoration of God, Master and Lord of all things. We are getting on to an essential matter. We cannot deal with the liturgy without talking about Arts, and we cannot talk about Christian Arts without mentioning the liturgy. Indeed, for us, Christians, all things must be recapitulated in Christ, who is, once again, the subject and the center of the liturgy, as He is the subject and the center of Christians Arts. Our Lord Jesus Christ truly is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of everything. As Saint John reminds us, “all things were made by Him and without Him was made nothing that was made.”
The theologians of the Middle-Ages, meditating on this fact and and combining the Christian Ars divina with the Platonic mundus archetypus, have developed a thought that is both theological and philosophical and that has been expressed by the Arts, especially by the architecture. They came to say that the Incarnate Word is Himself the Ars Patris, the Art of the Father. We mention here Blessed Achard of Saint Victor, abbot of Saint Victor in Paris and later Bishop of Avranches (circa 1100 - 1171) and Thomas de Vaucelles, a Cistercian monk in the XII century: for him, Ars signifies the redeeming plan , which is a very interesting concept and shows us how our Elders have magnificently put together theology, philosophy, literature, arts... They simply understood what the Incarnation meant on a human level and acknowledged the fact that the spiritual order and the temporal order, though well distinct, are called to unite. It was Christendom!
You just have to contemplate one of these splendid romanesque churches that adorn our beautiful land of France - and we have so many of them just around us in Auvergne, in Provence or in Bourgogne - to grasp the substance of this thought. They all cry out, so loudly that one has to be spiritually deaf to not hear it, that Jesus Christ truly is the center of everything, that He rules over the whole creation and that He is the Prototokos, “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creatures” (Colossians 1,15).
Now, going from universal to particular, let us focus on an art which must be authentic according to Pope Benedict XVI, namely Sacred Music. What should be characteristic of Sacred Music, the Pope says, is the beauty of its forms so that it can introduce us into the holy Mysteries.
On November 10th 2012, Benedict XVI addressed the participants in the national congress of scholae cantorum organized by the Saint Cecilia Association in Italy. He reaffirmed what the Sacred Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium already taught: “The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.”
This is a teaching of the Church that the great champions of the Council - I mean those who always talk about it but seem to ignore it - have forgotten, they, who have denatured the liturgy in the name of a Council that says the opposite of what they do. I do not fear to say that they have committed a crime that is both against the faith and against humanity; against the faith by virtue of Lex orandi, les credendi, and against humanity for having expel from our churches the splendor of the greatest art that even a non-believer can appreciate for its beauty, and to replace it with little songs that might be nice to sing in the evening around a fire camp but that can hardly introduce us into the holy Mysteries. Even on a natural level and for the sake of art, it is a considerable loss! When I hear sometimes the “music” that is offered in so many churches, I am tempted to think that we may belong to the same Church but that we do not have the same religion.
Those who thought that they could do better than our Elders, since the seventies and even earlier, did not have the wisdom to bring forth out of the treasure of the Church new things and old (Cf Matthew 13,52). This is precisely what Tradition is all about, unlike conservatism. The conservatives keep things are they are in a precise time as if they were pieces of museum, and as such they follow a certain fashion of a certain time. I do not recognize myself in this vision of the Church. On the other hands, the progressists want to sweep away everything that was made before them and to start everything new. This is neither my vision of the Church. The XX century had its iconoclasts, and unfortunately they were within the Church. May the XXI century see us returning to what is essential: Being, Truth, Goodness, Beauty!
Dostoievsky said that beauty will save the world. It will be true if we know how to rediscover the beauty of God and of His works. Let us understand as Benedict XVI says, that it is not for mere aesthetic reasons, in a superficial sense. It is all about the comprehension and the expression of our faith, in theology as well as in liturgy... These are just two sides of the same Divine reality.