The Importance of Beauty in the Liturgy

JULY 22, 2013

"This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. It is beauty, like truth, which brings joy to the heart of man and is that precious fruit which resists the wear and tear of time, which unites generations and makes them share things in admiration. And all of this is through your hands. May these hands be pure and disinterested. Remember that you are the guardians of beauty in the world. May that suffice to free you from tastes which are passing and have no genuine value, to free you from the search after strange or unbecoming expressions. Be always and everywhere worthy of your ideals and you will be worthy of the Church which, by our voice, addresses to you today her message of friendship, salvation, grace and benediction.”


Pope Paul VI address to artists
Closing of the Second Vatican Council
8.VII.1965

On July 14, 2013, I had the incredible experience to attend Mass in the beautiful St. Paul’s Cathedral in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The beauty of this building was the setting for the always beautiful Catholic Mass which was elevated in beauty and reverence for Our Blessed Lord by the assistance by the aesthetic beauty of the building and the use bells, chanting, Latin, and incense. Some may say that that a building such as this Cathedral should be sold and the proceeds given to the poor. Others will criticize the use bells, chanting, Latin, and incense as archaic. However, I maintain that the aesthetics of the building and the use of bells, chanting, Latin, and incense aided in my experience. The Liturgy was elevated beyond mere words. I found myself more focused on what was happening than I usually am. I found myself more connected with the presence of Our Lord. Not on Earth was my state of mind, but in Heaven. I felt a deep sense of God’s love in a way I have not felt before. I owe this wonderful experience to the beauty of the Mass and the elements provided from being inside the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Should not all Catholic parishes strive to create the visible beauty of the Mass? It is not by making the Mass more “modern” that the Church serves the world. The Mass should be beautiful, not “modern.” Music should inspire reverence, not a toe-tapping, hallelujah-shouting, hand-clapping response. The Mass is about Our Lord and not about the congregation feeling “nice.” At the Mass we receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Should not the Mass create an atmosphere appropriate for such an event?

“The Mass is a compendium of all God’s love, of all His benefits to men, and each Mass bestows on the world a benefit not less than what was conferred on it by the Incarnation.” - St. Bonaventure

“The Mass has just the same value as Calvary.” - St. John Chrysostom