Sacred Art, Nudes, And The Streets of Florence
Similar to the streets of New York City are the streets of Florence when it comes to the hustle and bustle that fills their stone roads. Beautiful architecture frames each piazza causing you to stare in awe as you walk by. I expected the people to have a familiar look to them but they do not. Like any city, there is a melting pot of people who make their home in the city of Florence. What attracts so many people to this city? I ask myself as I look at the consistent flow of tourists who peruse around. Maybe it is the decadent gelato that I should not be eating so much. Maybe it is the historical structures with such foundation. Or maybe it is like what most people say, the art. I personally think it is much more then all of this; I believe that there is a freedom and respect here for beauty that is rare to come by and this is attractive! It is quite common to walk down the streets and hear countless musicians gracing you with a melody. I like to think of it is my personal Florence theme song. Walk a few more blocks and you will come across extremely talented painters who are literally painting the streets with famous works of art. Climb to the highest point where you overlook the entire city. There, time stops as you look at the crowded roads filled with rows of homes placed in a non-orderly fashion. Church steeples pierce the sky and ancient Domes claim a dominance that brings a sense of peace and security. Every building plays an important role to this magnificent masterpiece framed by exotic mountains in the distance. I never imagined having the opportunity to live in such a place as this.
As I soak in such splendor, I am reminded of my deepest dream, to speak truth through beauty. How can I do this? I have always asked myself. As I begin to dive into Sacred Art at school, I see more fully its power. Sacred Art, in all its precision and mystery has strength to claim bold revelations and to heal hearts. Along with six hours of perfecting my technique in drawing classes, I have had the honor of being asked to assist some of the Theology of the Body courses due to my previous experience. In helping, I have already begun to have concepts in my own mind solidified more clearly. For instance, the first two classes I helped with were with an American group of students who were visiting. Many of them were struggling to see how nude art can still safeguard someone’s dignity. Even for me, this can be a hard thing to grapple with. In America, we are not used to having nudes be associated with the Church in any which way. To most of us, that is ridiculous. Why? Because we live in a pornographic culture where we have been scared and left ignorant of the true value of the body. Now, do not take me the wrong way and think I am saying the Italians have it all correct in this department but there is something much deeper at hand to be discussed then who has it right. This class brought some key points to the surface. The body is a mystery that expresses the answers to so many questions we have in regards to our identity and the call we have as humans. Who are we? Where do we come from? And where are we going? Are all questions that can be answered by simply understanding the fullness of our bodies, male and female! While the responses to each of these questions are very rich, I want to focus on one main truth that our body expresses; we are a gift. Physically, we speak this loud and clear. Our reproductive systems show us this as they are incomplete without the other and when they are united they bear life either in the presence of a new child or through the grace of a deeper unity between the couple that is shown through all society. This call to be a gift goes far beyond intimate relations and it fills a deep yearning we have within ourselves, if we were to be truly honest. Sadly, Porn has tainted this view of the body. It teaches us that our bodies are only for our pleasure and that we can use others to get further pleasure. Pornography has scared so many. Yet, Pope Francis reminds us of something that is a bold claim, “ Pornography can be healed by viewing Sacred Art.”!!! What? Yes! One of the girls in class attested to this rich statement. She struggled with porn and since viewing the authentic nude body in Sacred Art here in Italy she is experiencing healing. She was able to see people in a light of their full personhood, body and soul. They had an identity, richness, and a purpose. Their body spoke of the wonder of God and all his creation. “This is how the body is to be seen, “ she said passionately, as a gift.
At first I thought my time here was going to be rather long, however, now I feel like there is not enough time for me to grow in so many ways! Our minds often need retraining. I believe there is much more at hand for me then I even know when it comes to growth as an artist and missionary. I see God moving big time in each minute he gifts to me. Please pray for these classes as they continue. Pray for each artist attending that they may dive deeper into understanding the beauty of who they are and who they are called to be.