The Ecumenism of Beauty | Edited by Timothy Verdon | Paraclete Press | 113 pg | 2017
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A couple of months ago I introduced us to Timothy Verdon’s rich exploration of religious art Art and Prayer: The Beauty of Turning to God. In compliment to this work, Verdon has edited a collection of essays on religious art entitled The Ecumenism of Beauty. Its more academic flavor is easily digested through seven pieces interspersed with vibrant photographs, and examples of the art discussed. With essays written specifically to honor the Reformation’s quincentennial anniversary, this collection pays special attention to the diverse yet unifying approaches to art that span multiple Christian traditions outside of Catholicism.
Jérôme Cottin’s piece “Calvin and the Visual Arts” offers a historical slant, teaching Calvin’s influence on the Protestant discomfort with sacred images, and yet the surprising spirituality of aesthetics that Calvin also carved a path for. Stepping over to Greece, Yale’s Vasileios Marinis introduces Orthodox standards of sacred art by contextualizing it in terms of the defining byzantine artist of the 20th century, Kontoglou.
Personally, I most enjoy the essays written by artists themselves about their work. For instance, Susan Kanaga, long-vowed member of the Benedictine abbey The Community of Jesus, discusses her process as an artist as she seeks to wrestle with the unanswerable through often abstract artistic form. The gorgeous work of Filippo Rossi speaks for itself, but here he breaks down the meaning of his stunning creations such as Magnificat and his sculpture Re-Velation.
In both of these essays we read the artists bare their work for us in a very intimate way and see the unity of hearts bowed in worship, despite the diversity of Christian tradition.
If you are drawn to a sacramental view of this world, centered upon the incarnation of Christ in the flesh, you will appreciate the worship-stirring perspective that The Ecumenism of Beauty gives voice to. If you like to sit and think, this book will satisfy your craving for deeper knowledge on the subject of Christian art from a variety of angles.