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Artistic Incarnation

Mark Matthews

Thursday, April 16, 2015

This past Christmas we reflected upon the incomprehensible mystery of the incarnation – God the Father made known to us through the man Jesus Christ. He chose a specific time, place, and way in our history to reveal Himself to us. That is the "Incarnation." It's a word we've probably heard many times. But have we ever stopped to think about what it really means?
Why did God choose to come to us in Palestine? Why 2000 years ago during Roman occupation? Why as a Aramaic speaking Jew who knew carpentry? I mean, he's GOD after all; shouldn't He be a bit more universal than just a single person? Maybe He could have at least come as an immortal person, and then all of humankind could have visited Him at some point? Or couldn't he have chosen something a little bit more transcendent?
We will never know exactly why He came as he did. The best theologians in history have written volumes upon volumes about the incarnation, and yet we barely comprehend it. However, we can say at least one thing - that our infinite God chose become the person of Jesus Christ so that He could reveal his love to us. 
Love requires incarnation. It's not enough to just experience it as a feeling - it needs to be given concrete form. Think of a marriage - A wedding is held at a specific time and place - where a couple publicly proclaims their love for one another. Throughout their lifetime they will manifest their love for each other through numerous acts - from taking out the garbage to caring for each other during sickness. Eventually, their love gives rise to an even more concrete incarnation - children.
So why does this interest me? After all, I'm your Hollywood Undercover Missionary, not your Hollywood Undercover Theologian.
Because Hollywood is full of artists, and artists are incarnators. Nothing describes the work of an artist better than "incarnation." Writers, actors, cinematographers, composers, directors and writers all give specific form, at specific times and places to abstract concepts and feelings. Without them, we would have no way to fully express our deepest feelings and longings.
For us missionaries to artists, understanding this can go a long way towards reaching them. We have to minister to artists in a special way. Most of my friends in Hollywood are the "starving artist" type. They're so dedicated that they've given up steady jobs and careers to pursue their art form. They are the quintessential "Bohemian Artists", and have all their quirks and peculiarities. One particular thing I've observed about them over and over, is just how finely tuned into other artistic creations they are.
They are the kind of people who regularly cry during beautiful symphonies, and likewise could bring people to tears through their performances. The best example of this is of a man I know who walked into a Catholic church in Europe, and was converted through the beauty of the art that he saw there. He was so touched by his experience that he went on to found a school to create similar works of art! We as Catholics need to continue this kind of incarnation so that we can touch people with these sensibilities.
We need to realize that it's only because of God's creation in the first place that we have the ability to echo his creative powers. We should realize that incarnation is what we are being called to do, and this echoes of Gods goodness. We did not invent art, and so do not ultimately own it. God owns it and we owe it to Him recognize this. (Pope John Paul II, Letter to artists, p. 1)
This is where worldly art so commonly goes astray - this post-modern concept of the primacy of the expression of "the artist," completely divorced from God and from others. No coincidence either then that we see so many anti-religious elements in modern art. Many artists begin to think that they are the beginning and end of their creations. Artists who use their art to create ugliness, and works of art that ultimately only distract and lead us astray.
Artists are called to emulate Gods love and beauty in the incarnation - the truth and love of Jesus Christ. They are called to emulate this action of God the father: God the father revealing His love for us through the person of Jesus Christ. God the Father revealing our true nature and destiny through Jesus Christ. Creating art that reflects these two truths will be the most beautiful there is.
So if you are an artist, or are partaking of art, know that you are participating in a deep deep mystery of God.
markmatthewsMark J. Matthews – our Hollywood Undercover Missionary @HUMissionary
Mark Matthews is a graphic designer and animator working in Hollywood.  Listen to his “What’s Good About Hollywood?” column once a month on  the SLHour.

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