Jacques Maritain on Christian art

If you want to make a Christian work, then be Christian, and simply try to make a beautiful work, into which your heart will pass: do not try to “make Christian.”

Do not make the absurd attempt to dissociate in yourself the artist and the Christian. They are one, if you are truly Christian, and if your art is not isolated from your soul by some system of aesthetics. But apply only the artist to the work; precisely because the artist and the Christian are one, the work will derive wholly from each of them.

Do not separate your art from your faith. But leave distinct what is distinct. Do not try to blend by force what life unites so well. If you were to make of your aesthetic an article of faith, you would spoil your faith. If you were to make of your devotion a rule of artistic activity, or if you were to turn desire to edify into a method of your art, you would spoil your art.

The entire soul of the artist reaches and rules his work, but it must reach it and rule it only through the artistic habitus. Art tolerates no division here. It will not allow any foreign element, juxtaposing itself to it, to mingle, in the production of the work, its regulation with art’s own. Tame it, and it will do all that you want it to do. Use violence, and it will accomplish nothing good. Christian work would have the artist, as artist, free.

Nevertheless art will be Christian, and will reveal in its beauty the interior reflection of the radiance of grace, only if it overflows from a heart suffused by grace. For the virtue of art which reaches it and rules it directly, presupposes that the appetite is rightly disposed with regard to the beauty of the work. And if the beauty of the work is Christian, it is because the appetite of the artist is rightly disposed with regard to such a beauty, and because in the soul of the artist Christ is present through love. The quality of the work is here the reflection of the love from which it issues, and which moves the virtue of art instrumentally. Thus it is by reason of an intrinsic superelevation that art is Christian, and it is through love that this superelevation takes place.

It follows from this that the work will be Christian in the exact degree in which love is vibrant. Let’s make no mistake about it: what is required is the very actuality of love, contemplation in charity. Christian work would have the artist, as man, a saint.

Jacques Maritain
Art and Scholasticism
Chapter VIII, “Christian Art”

I have said again and again that Beauty and Poetry are an inexorable absolute which requires a total gift of oneself and which suffers no division. Only with God can a man give himself totally twice at the same time, first to his God and second to something which is a reflection of his God.

When the love on which the perfection of human life depends, and which tends to the self-subsisting Absolute, is integrated in the creative source itself, it brings no division in creative activity, because it penetrates and activates everything, and the very love of an artist for the particular absolute he serves.

Jacques Maritain
The Responsibility of the Artist
conclusion of Chapter IV
“Poetry and Perfection of Human Life”

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Books with latent Christianity

“I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more by that than by any directly apologetic work… What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects – with their Christianity latent. [A materialist] would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian.”

C. S. Lewis, “Christian Apologetics”

Composing both music and our personal conduct

Ambivalence diminishes as sins are given away. Otherwise, even though he gains the world of music through composing significant songs, a composer who goes rutting about while neglecting his wife and family has broken their tender hearts (see Jacob 2:35) even though putting musical notes together. In the family’s next generation, tragic anger or imitation may be acted out. The music which flows from such a composer cannot compensate fully for his folly. In eternal perspective, a soothing symphony does not compensate for jarring cacaphony in personal conduct. Besides, better music is ahead (see 1 Corinthians 2:9).
Neal A. Maxwell,  A Wonderful Flood of Light, Pg.98

Choosing to use our talents well

Blessed with our knowledge of premortal experience, life is largely what we choose to make of it and of our inborn talents. The same musical scale was available to Beethoven for composing his Fifth Symphony as to the composer of “Chopsticks.” These compositions even share several opening notes of melody. But what an enormous difference in substance and effect!
Neal A. Maxwell,  A Wonderful Flood of Light, Pg.47

 

Art and media filled with light

“The promoters of darkness often seem to have direct access to the media microphone. We may not be able to take that away from them, but we can at least raise our own voices. We can teach correct principles often and in as many ways as possible.

“Since darkness is the absence of light, surely the most powerful way to counter darkness is to fill the world with light. One of my associates observed recently:

“Light and darkness cannot occupy the same space at the same time.
“Light dispels darkness. When light is present, darkness is vanquished and must depart. More importantly, darkness cannot conquer light unless the light is diminished or departs” (Robert D. Hales, in Conference Report, Apr. 2002, 80-81; or Ensign, May 2002, 70).

“Is it not part of our work as sons and daughters of God to encourage creative efforts that dispel darkness and replace it with light? Indeed, one objective of the Lighted Candle Society is to promote “positive and uplifting . . . education and entertainment.” How powerful a force for good would be a renaissance in literature, art, technology, and science that adds light rather than takes it away! Such a renaissance is possible. There are among us artists and artisans who need only to receive a little more support and encouragement from men and women of conscience to produce works that could rival those that half a millennium ago marked the end of Europe’s Dark Age and the rise of a wonderful new cultural and spiritual Renaissance.

“As we fill the earth with art (and media) that is good and uplifting—as we fill the earth with light and knowledge—our children will see the darkness for what it is. They will see that it is counterfeit, that it brings only sorrow, pain, and emptiness. They will come to prefer light and be attracted to that which is good and true.”

From a speech given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland at the Fourth Annual Guardian of the Light Award Dinner of the Lighted Candle Society.