“God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” – Genesis 1:31

We live in a world of flux, a world of pathos and bathos, bathed in the fragmentation of a post-modern sociological consciousness, where humanity has been taught to question the existence of God, and of which humanity has been exiled and inevitably spiraled into a nihilistic and meaningless existence. Our perspective of who we are and that of our identities as sons and daughters of God, made in his image and likeness, have been warped and distorted by the world we live in, and the prevailing societal narratives we ardently subscribe to. This has been exacerbated by the types of contemporary imagery that assail and assault our senses –  the influencers on social media perpetuating a worldview that beauty is plastic, the magazine covers – preying on humanity’s insecurities and offering quick fixes and instant gratification, while still perpetuating narratives of self-doubt, the stories we have begun to believe and internalised – that we  are not loved, will never be loved, that we are not enough and will never be enough… People’s tastes have been attuned to what are at best derogatory – our intellectual vocabulary has been reduced to images and words that insult both God and His creation. Art has also increasingly since its height in the 16th century renaissance, been dehumanised, and mocking in its nature. We are in the words of modern and contemporary art – mere blobs and globs, and our dignity as human beings has been diminished or been slowly, but surely eroded away. The implications of these issues are tremendous – because we are drowning in these norms and deviant images that have been normalised as part of our everyday existence: 1) It then becomes difficult to see God and encounter God, who is true beauty, and even if people should encounter the True Beauty that is God, our eyes have become so accustomed to the pedestrian and to filth, that we will definitely pass God by. 2) Human life is cheapened and devalued. This allows us to justify not upholding the dignity of a person, of shoddy work conditions for those under our employment, the killing of foetuses, euthanasia, and sadly, also glamourises the opinion that suicide is an acceptable way out, because human life, according to the world, is worthless.

What does God say of us? Who are we in the eyes of the Lord? Why is it so difficult to believe that we are loved, are cared for, and are precious?

Isaiah 43: 1
“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Isaiah 43: 3-4
“For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, Your Saviour. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you, I give men in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.”

St. John Paul II in his Letter to Artists offers us a solution to the alienating world that we live in. The solution is Via Pulchritudinis – the Way of Beauty. According to St. John Paul II (1999), God in His creative work as Maker of the universe and of all things, both invisible and visible, is the very model of each and every person, in this light, the artists and craftspersons, who make and produce a work. The human artist/craftsman is a direct reflection of God as Maker and Creator, and their work echoes in the beauty they present, the mystery of God’s creation (Para 1 & 3).  Accordingly,

The one who creates bestows being itself, he brings something out of nothing—ex nihilo sui et subiecti, as the Latin puts it—and this, in the strict sense, is a mode of operation which belongs to the Almighty alone. The craftsman, by contrast, uses something that already exists, to which he gives form and meaning. This is the mode of operation peculiar to man as made in the image of God. In fact, after saying that God created man and woman “in his image” (Genesis 1:27), the Bible adds that he entrusted to them the task of dominating the earth (Genesis 1:28). This was the last day of creation (Genesis 1:28-31). On the previous days, marking as it were the rhythm of the birth of the cosmos, Yahweh had created the universe. Finally he created the human being, the noblest fruit of his design, to whom he subjected the visible world as a vast field in which human inventiveness might assert itself.

God therefore called man into existence, committing to him the craftsman’s task. Through his “artistic creativity” man appears more than ever “in the image of God”, and he accomplishes this task above all in shaping the wondrous “material” of his own humanity and then exercising creative dominion over the universe which surrounds him. With loving regard, the divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in his creative power.(St, John Paul II, 1999, Para. 4 and 5)

God has entrusted humanity to be custodians and vicars of His very own creativity and artistry – That in expressing their inspirations with regard to colour, aesthetics, musicality, sounds, words, forms,  and textures, a glimmer of God at work when He first created life is seen. There is an intense and immense void in the human heart that can only be filled via the encounter with true beauty – a melody of praise, the poignant words off a page, the poetry and prose of human connection and affirmation, the resplendent synthesis of colours, lines and forms. St. John Paul II (1999), continues: “Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable. ” (Para. 39)

Some questions for us to reflect upon:

  1. What is one area of my life that needs to be reclaimed via the lenses of True Beauty?
  2. How can I be a channel that leads others to encountering God in Beauty?

On this Laetare Sunday, as we prepare to enter into Holy Week, the invitation is to encounter the Beauty of God once again; to rediscover who we are and our identities as made in the image and likeness of God; as God’s Beloveds; and perhaps, to find the courage to tell the world about our own encounters with the True Beauty whom is God, vis-à-vis our artistic and creative endeavours. May the work of our hands be a lifesong that will honour and give praise to God.


By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan


St. John Paul II. (1999, April 4). Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists. Vatican.va. http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/letters/1999/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_23041999_artists.html