· Contemporary art and spirituality at the Church of the Transfiguration in New England ·
On October 18, the feast of St. Luke the evangelist and, according to tradition, also painter, a singular event will take place at the Centre for Art and Culture of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence: a day of study undertaken by a monastic community to reflect on the art they have created in the service of the liturgy. Entitled, “Contemporary Sacred Art. Life Sources And Spiritualities,” the day was born out of the construction of a church as the expression of the life of this young Christian community in the Benedictine tradition. The church in question is the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, Massachusetts; the community is the Community of Jesus, founded by two American women between 1958-1970.
One aspect of the life of this community, on which the day’s study will focus, is the exceptional interest of its members for art and architecture; a traditional component of the Benedictine character. But in this case, the interest is surprising because the Community of Jesus was born within the Reformed tradition and the majority of its members come from Protestantism. Thus, the artistic emphasis and the assumption of the monastic identity are not “natural” choices, as they would be in a Roman Catholic community or an Orthodox one, but supernatural ones, indicated by the same Spirit in which the members of the Community feel called to pray and work together. The story that emerges from this unusual journey – a story of our times, perhaps a sign of our times – invites us to reflect on the connection between art created for places of worship and the spiritual lives of believers who gather there; on the intimate and inseparable relationship between art made in the service of Christian liturgy and the vital spring of Christian faith, Christ himself, the Word of God made flesh. Word and flesh: the story of this reformed community attentive to Scripture and preaching, but that also expresses its spirituality in visible and plastic form, opens a fascinating ecumenical perspective.
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