Finding the Sacred in the Ordinary
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. — Michelangelo
Nothing is more ordinary and mundane than a big block of rough-hewn marble. Yet Michelangelo saw a beautiful image waiting to be freed from the confines of the nondescript and unexceptional. His David radiates and exalts to this day this powerful truth.
A contemporary artist (also Italian) sees in the most nondescript detritus — an old wooden fence post or a large piece of driftwood — the beauty waiting to be revealed. Rather than removing the nonessential (fragments of marble) to uncover the essential, this modern artist is enhancing what seems to be entirely disposable and nonessential by applying layer upon layer of paint, carefully brushed and intricately patterned.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince insists that what is essential is actually invisible to the naked eye: And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. Yet the essential can become accessible in beauty, authentic beauty, especially the beauty of what is sacred and holy. Beauty mediates through image and art the essential which indeed can only be seen and embraced by the heart. The beauty of this Madonna and Child which has allowed the essential to emerge from the nonessential is truly breath-taking and awe-inspiring.