On the Necessity of the Unnecessary

The “beauty” of the liturgy… [is] unnecessary… indeed, for we are beyond the categories of the “necessary.” Beauty is never “necessary,” “functional” or “useful.” And when, expecting someone whom we love, we put a beautiful tablecloth on the table and decorate it with candles and flowers, we do all this not out of necessity, but out of love. And the Church is love, expectation and joy. It is heaven on earth… it is the joy of recovered childhoood, that free, unconditioned and disinterested joy which alone is capable of transforming the world. In our adult, serious piety, we ask for definitions and justifications, and they are rooted in fear–fear of corruption, deviation, “pagan influences,” whatnot. But “he that feareth is not made perfect in love (I John 4;18). As long as Christians will love the kingdom of God, and not only discuss it, they will “represent” it and signify it, in art and beauty.

Alexander Schmemann

Understanding and Instilling a Love of Beauty

Every year after our CiRCE conference I have the privilige of listening to the conference CD’s. Some of them are downright extraordinary, especially if you are willing and eager to think about education beyond the superficialities of popular thought. Today I was listening to a CD by Debbie Harris with the title of this blog post. I found myself repeatedly thinking, “This is incredible.”

Debbie shows in this talk how God uses beauty to draw us to Himself, how there are at least three “stages” of our perception of beauty, and how we can (and must) draw our students through these stages for beauty to fulfill its purpose. I felt my soul opening and reaching upward as she spoke.

I have to rank this as one of the top ten talks delivered at the CiRCE conferences over the past five years. You can get a copy by clicking here to visit our catalogue.