The Christian mystery, celebrated in the Roman Catholic liturgy, is a sensible mystery, and calls out for artistic expression. Living Beauty explores the Christian mystery and points to the need for a liturgical aesthetic as a means to encounter the divine mystery. A liturgical aesthetic gives an account of Christian worship in terms of a new set of categories that includes divine beauty, a theology of sensibility, and the new notion of a unitive revelatory experience. These categories help to reveal the aesthetic dimensions of the Church's watershed document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. The Church today stands in need of a new conversation on the aesthetic dimension of the liturgy and the role of the arts. Contrary to common opinion, the arts provide more than an environment or mere extrinsic ornamentation for the liturgy; they are intrinsic to the very nature of liturgy. They provide the means of being sanctified in the encounter with divine beauty that is the mystery of Christian worship. Artistic expression enables the worshiping community to receive the divine mystery in beauty.
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Alejandro Garc'a-Rivera is professor of systematic theology at the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley. He is the author of A Wounded Innocence: Sketches for a Theology of Art. Thomas Scirghi is associate professor of liturgical theology at the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley. He regularly lectures on liturgical and sacramental theology.Review:
Garcia-Rivera and Scirghi inspire hope that the Church can find a way to worship that is faithful to the tradition and 'living' in fresh, new ways. Living Beauty provides a path for discovering common ground among vying viewpoints on reforming the reformed liturgy today, and offers a theological framework for moving beyond the polarizing issues that have crippled efforts at liturgical renewal since the Second Vatican Council. (Judith Kubicki)
In the interplay between theory (Garcia-Rivera) and pastoral context (Scirghi), this study contributes a perspective that may resonate with many different voices and allow some groups to move beyond the 'worship wars' into fruitful conversation. For those not immersed in such issues, the book is a welcome addition to the interdisciplinary nature of aesthetic theology, this time applying the insights of aesthetics to the specificity of liturgy and further concretizing the theory in the lived experience of liturgical celebration. (Lizette Larson-Miller)
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