I want to begin by showing you something beautiful.
Such beauty, Dostoevsky once wrote, saves the world..."it has its own integral organic life and it answers man’s innate need for beauty, without which, perhaps, he might not want to live upon earth". Our need for beauty is our need for the light of the face of God to overcome the shadows of our every day lives.
But, lo, there is something even greater here! For the object which I have chosen to share with you this evening is not just an art object fit for a display case in the MFA or an honored place on that well lit table in your entry way. What makes this object truly beautiful is the use for which it is destined. It is not just an object, but a sacred object, made sacred by its use in the sacred liturgy.
For the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, the “source and the summit of the entire Christian life,” is, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “an expression of the sublime beauty of the God who has called men and women to be his friends"! (9 September 2007, Heiligenkreuz Abbey, Austria)
In his Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis Pope Benedict reminded us of “the inherent link between the liturgy and beauty.” “[the Liturgy] is veritatis splendor...a radiant expression of the paschal mystery, in which Christ draws us to himself and calls us to communion. As Saint Bonaventure would say, in Jesus we contemplate beauty and splendor at their source. This is no mere aestheticism, but the concrete way in which the truth of God’s love in Christ encounters us, attracts us and delights us, enabling us to emerge from ourselves and drawing us towards our true vocation, which is love...The truest beauty is the love of God, who definitively revealed himself to us in the paschal mystery.(Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 35)
And herein lies an important point for my brief reflection tonight. If it is true that the truest beauty is in the paschal mystery, and that the clearest image of the presence of God this side of Heaven is in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, then it is not the mere loveliness, the exquisite form or artistic execution of this magnificent chalice which makes the Liturgy beautiful, but its service of the holy and living sacrifice which consecrates it with a beauty which is beyond all imagining.
A concluding story. This afternoon I sang the Church's prayer of Commendation of the Dying for a woman in her last days of life. For many years her devoted husband has been her constant caregiver and now he and her loving family gathered around her bed. She smiled when we began to pray and she was beautiful.
Not with the beauty she once bore in her wedding picture, wherein a lovely bride grasps the hand of the man to whom God would wed her, not with the beauty of youth and good health, not with the beauty of a devoted mother running after her little children....no, the beauty which shown in Barbara's eyes was the beauty of faithful love, of a race well run, and of undefeated love. And it was more beautiful than all the beauties which had preceded it, for it reflected most clearly the perfect beauty of the paschal love to which we now entrust her soul. In those eyes, as they grow dim, we see the light of Christ and his eternal love.
And is there anything more beautiful than that?