from “Spirit of the Liturgy”, Part Three, Art and Liturgy,
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, 2000
we are experiencing, not just a crisis of sacred art, but a crisis of art
in general of unprecedented proportions. The crisis of art for its
part is a symptom of the crisis of man’s very existence. The immense
growth in man’s mastery of the material world has left him blind to the
questions of life’s meaning that transcend the material world. We
might almost call it a blindness of the spirit. The questions of
how we ought to live, how we canovercome death, whether existence has a
purpose and what it is—to all these questions there is no longer a common
answer. Postivism, formulated in the name of scientific seriousness,
nrrows the horizon to what is verifiable, to what can be proved by experiment;
it renders the world opaque. True, it still contains mathematics,
but the logos that is the presupposition of this mathematics and its applicability
is no longer evident. Thus our world if images no longer surpasses the
bounds of sense and appearance, and the flood of images that surrounds
us really means the end of the image. If something cannot be photographed,
it cannot be seen. In this situation, the art of the icon, sacred
art, depending as it does on a wider kind of seeing, becomes impossible.
What is more, art itself, which in impressionism and expressionism explored
the extreme possibilities of the sense of sight, becomes literally object-less.
Art turns into experimenting with self-created worlds, empty “creativity”,
which no longer perceives the Creator Spiritus, the Creator Spirit. It
attempts to take his place, and yet, in so doing, it manages to produce
only what is arbitrary and vacuous, bringing home to man the absurdity
of his role as creator.
cannot be “produced”, as one contracts out and produces technical equipment.
It is always a gift. Inspiration is not something one can choose
for oneself. It has to be received, otherwise it is not there. One
cannot bring about a renewal of art in faith by money or through commissions.
Before all things it requires the gift of a new kind of seeing. And
so it would be worth our while to regain a faith that sees. Wherever
that exists, art finds it proper expression.