I dilly-dallied tonight about which thread to post this on. I did not put it in A VISIT WITH PAPA
because although Sihaya from the main forum briefly references her presence at the General
Audience of January 4, 2006, it was simply to illustrate the point of her beautiful little
meditation on the nature of beauty, more specifically, why we think Papa is beautiful. Sylvie
from the French section wrote a beautiful rejoinder to Sihaya's piece, which forms the second
part of this post. I did not post this in CHATTER because that would imply that the topic was
trivial, which it obviously is not. As POPE-POURRI is a grab-bag for all things Benedict that is
not "straight" news, it seemed the right place to put it in.
First, Sihaya's piece. I must apologize not having seen it right away. She posted it on Jan. 8
under one of the more "polemical" (because the topic invites polemics from "outsiders") topics in
the Forum-proper (ie, discussion) section of the Main forum, namely, "LA BELLEZZA DI PAPA BENEDETTO".
As several people have been posting messages on that thread in 5-6 different sections, I did not notice
when the board changed to show Sihaya had just posted something.
By Sihaya BXVI247 (Posted 1/8/05 in Italian
Today I went to mass at the Church of the Capuchin Fathers in Sant’Agnello. In his homily, the monk
said: “Beauty cannot be reduced only to an esthetic question. Beauty is truly beauty when it reflects
the grace of God.”
These words struck me because I had entered the church full of doubts, but his words gave me a
confirmation. Of the beauty of Pope Benedict, that we admire – because we receive through it,
above all,the reflection of Faith, of spirituality, of grace. This spiritual dimension, I repeat,
is absolutely essential, no matter how the tone of some expressions that we use (to express
our love) may lead a to a more “sensual” dimension of feelings; but these “sensual” dimension will
be seen as blasphemous or sick only by whoever has a heavy load of sickness within, of bigotry,
of interior filth.
But then there is the playful and joyous aspect of our affection- “ciuffetto”, “chioma candida”,
“occhino azzuri”,“visino furbetto” – all it takes is a dash of joy and humor to catch the true value
of such comments, which only an obtuse mental closedness (the mirror image of obstinate anti-
clericalism – just look at anti-clerical and radical sites, or malicious defamations, like the
Kaos books) would interpret wrongly.
The comments we make express our affection, our sympathy, a tenderly feminine approach
which adds another caress but does not take anything away from the authentically Christian
dimension of our love for the Holy Father. How can a mother’s caress compromise the value
of her educational principles?
Many among us, who used to be unyielding atheists, have recovered the Faith and rediscovered
the joy in the message of Christ, thanks to Pope Benedict; our lives have changed, have recovered
a dimension of Grace, of sense, of truth – and that is why we are not and cannot be compared to
fans of TV stars.
Regarding sensuality… Some users have directly accused us of “sexuality”, venting and perhaps
projecting onto us their own ill-managed, unaccepted instincts, loaded with sickness and a sense of
guilt towards physical beauty which, if admired, is seen only as a source of sin (not even the
Middle Ages had this attitude!): – “You admire the physical beauty of the Pope, but the body is
sinful, therefore you are sinning.”
Other than sporadic comments that are a bit “explicit” which, however, are promptly tamed, amorous
surges that may sound “passionate” or “sexual”, it is not what it seems to be. OK, so maybe there is
something sensual, but so what? The Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, the Sufi mystics, Taoists,
Hindus, have they not all spoken of Divinity in passionate tones? Have they not lived the love
of God and for God as a love that burns the soul and the body? But this does not mean “cheap
sexuality” such as that which makes a perversion of newspapers and TV, but Eros in its most sacred dimension.
Now, I would like to speak of my own personal experience. Last January 4, the Lord gave me
the immense joy of taking part in a General Audience, to be able to look ito the eyes of
the Holy Father, to be able to shake his hand.
Now I can say, Pope Benedict is NOT beautiful, Yes, you read right: he is not beautiful.
Beauty can be, if we want to see it this way, a concept about esthetic proportions, mathematical,
like that which the Greeks realized in their sculptures. In this sense of the pure harmony
of forms, beauty is simply an earthly concept.
But what I saw and perceived was on a superior level: it is difficult to find a definition
for what I want to express, but the word that comes closest is SPLENDOR. Splendor is beauty,
light, grace… Pope Benedict’s face, incredible as it may seem to say it, radiates light,
it is iridescent, it transmits luminosity through his very clear eyes. His “aura”
I wish you could have a similar experience, so powerful and magnetic.
I experienced what the painter Ulisse Sartini said : “Pope Benedict is light that moves.”
Sylvie's rejoinder (translated from the French
..Yes. It’s what I have been saying all along:
He emits, he radiates, he emanates something which I cannot describe because it is felt
rather than seen.
This emission may well be beautiful, but it requires a receiver. If the person in front
of him is resolutely against him or his ideas, he won’t be able to receive this magnetism –
just as someone who does not want to yield to hypnotism will resist it. One must open
the door, be ready to receive the impalpable that may be transmitted.
Is he aware of it? I don’t think so. Those who have this gift?, this power?, are so above
such trivial details that they don’t realize themselves the impact of their presence.
He had this gift before he became Pope. It was not a question of title or office. Evidently,
a Cartesian rationalist would never radiate.
One only has to read the eyewitness accounts about him, and of those who are like him
in this domain!
This account (Sihaya’s) does not surprise me. It is that of a well-tuned receiver, on the same
wavelength as Joseph.
I can only repeat that he has something that is beyond human – something else.
Like bodies which are incorruptible – what do they have, to be such?
Benedict is inhabited by a phenomenon we cannot grasp, but which we sense and describe
as best we can.
Now, please excuse me for posting here something I excerpted from an article about Hans Urs
von Balthasar on the nature of Beauty.
I originally posted this in the Pictures thread of the RFC, where I thought it belonged
(though surprisingly, it got not one single comment!), since it would serve - for us,
primarily, and for people who wish to understand our attraction to the "physical" Benedict - as a
clarification of the transcendent feelings that "genuine beauty" arouses in us. Both Sihaya
and Sylvie have described it from their personal experience.
Reading it confirms and explains the transcendent experience one undergoes when one is
conquered by beauty - whether it be a flower, a sunset, Dante's Divina Commedia, a Mozart symphony,
Michelangelo's Pieta, Benedict the Beautiful...
The excerpt is from "Love Alone is Believable: Hans Urs von Balthasar's Apologetics" by Fr. John R. Cihak.
Hans Urs von Balthasar on Beauty and Rapture
Balthasar argues that the encounter with beauty in the world is analogous to the encounter
with the Triune God. What happens in the "aesthetic encounter"? He sees that beauty is
an indissolvable union of two things: species and lumen. Beauty consists of a specific,
tangible form (species) accessible to human senses with a splendor emanating from
the form (lumen). Beauty has a particular form, is concretely situated in the coordinates of
time and space, and thus has proportion so that it can be perceived. The splendor is
the attractive charm of the Beautiful, the gravitational pull, the tractor beam pulling
the beholder into it. When confronted with the Beautiful, one encounters "the real presence
of the depths, of the whole reality, and . . . a real pointing beyond itself to those depths".
In the perception of beauty, two moments occur: first vision and then rapture, the result
of which is the impression of the form on the beholder. The splendor moves out from within
the form, enraptures the person and transports him into its depths. Thus the visible form
'not only 'points' to an invisible, unfathomable mystery; form is the apparition of this mystery,
and reveals it while, naturally, at the same time "protecting and veiling it". In beauty,
the beholder is drawn out of himself and pulled into the form by the attractive force of
the beautiful thing, thereby encountering the beautiful thing in itself.
A simple example to illustrate the aesthetical encounter can be found in looking up into a clear
night sky at the stars. One is struck by the immensity and order of the universe, by the
arrangement of the constellations. On an especially clear night, one seems engulfed by
the sheer number of stars. Presented with this beautiful form, a sensitive viewer is drawn in
by light breaking forth from the form. This light is not simply the light emanating from each star,
the result of burning gases. It is the light of Being. Transported into the depths of the form,
the viewer ponders foundational questions such as: How did this happen? Where did
these things come from? Why is this form so beautiful? Why am I so moved by it?
The result of the aesthetical encounter is an encounter with the mystery of Being-in-itself.
One has been shown the form and through the form been brought into an encounter with the depth
of Being. Wondering at the mystery of a particular being, one is drawn into that beautiful form,
and touches the mystery of absolute Being. The form and the depths of its being are indissoluble.
In beauty one doesn't "get behind" the form. Rather one touches the depths of Being
in the form itself.
For Balthasar, things that exist don't just lay there in existence; they glow from their
participation in absolute Being. In Beauty, one is taken in and grasped by Being. In order to
perceive a particular being as it is, one must surrender, be receptive, and be willing to be
taken in by the form. Control or manipulation on the part of the beholder derails the aesthetical
encounter. To share in the beauty, the viewer must renounce himself. The result of
the encounter with beauty is the impressing of the form on the person leaving him breathless,
exhilarated, full of awe and infused with joy. He is "seduced" by the beautiful form
whether it is a stunning landscape or one's beloved.
And that's what a great theologian thought about the nature of beauty. It seems to have
been expressly written for Benaddicts
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