Liturgical Art?

By Hillary Asbury

Visual communication is huge these days.

It seems like the people in my life are constantly communicating over text message and social media using GIFS, emojis, and memes. I’ve seen whole conversations conducted almost entirely in this way, and I ask myself: Why?

Why is this the way we “talk” to each other now?

Is it out of convenience or laziness? Is it a fascination with new toys and technology? Is it just more fun that way? Have we become bored with the written word? Have we been trained to need more and more visual stimuli to keep our attention? Perhaps, but these visual messages also carry different meanings than words do alone. Have you ever tried to tell someone how you feel, tried to describe an emotional or mental state and just…not had the words?

Sometimes language can be limiting in its ability to fully express these things.

Sometimes an image captures it perfectly. Although the interactions that take place online and over text can seem shallow in content and attitude at first glance, I really believe that people are looking for deep connections and meaningful expression.

There is a need for visual stimulation in our culture which betrays a deeper, more pressing need for meaning.

With this in mind, many churches have implemented tools like PowerPoint presentations, image and light projections, and even video media, all in sincere and thoughtful hopes of maintaining interest and focus, of creating an environment which fosters growth and education. This shows care and an honest desire to serve congregations in every way, but do all these technologies address the underlying need for connection and meaning?

If sermons provide a better understanding of Scripture, if hymns create complex connections and facilitate contemplation, if the Divine Service speaks salvation to those who hear it, shouldn’t our visual aids, our art, do the same?

The utilization of liturgical art addresses all of these needs. If done well, it provides significant visual stimulus, draws the viewer in, and encourages thoughtful meditation on the Word. If art in the Church clearly speaks the Gospel, it adds to the Divine Service (rather than distract from it). If it is “readable” and understandable to those who see it, it will constantly point to Christ as Creator and Author of our salvation.

Liturgical art expresses the mysteries of our faith, tells of its beauty and complexity, and creates profound connections.

It is an important tool in telling biblical truths and might just communicate what we struggle to say with our words. It gets right to the heart of our need for meaning and delivers Christ straight to our hearts.

One thought on “Liturgical Art?

  1. Hillary, in my view, your observations are correct, and visual aids and Liturgical art are essential tools. I suppose I am still uncomfortable with iconoclastic art which includes pictures of Jesus, however, my opinion is tempered by the reality that Our Lord walked the earth as a man, and how can one find fault with an artist’s interpretation of the way He appeared in form and physical appearance?
    Your comments about the technology of today and its’ effect on communication and art are valid. I would add that the difference between today and pre-social media/internet development is that many people now have short attention spans and need visual stimuli to feed their information addiction. On the plus side is the rapid global interaction between people of various cultures, tied together through social media, and the absolutely wonderful idea that the Gospel is going out to all the world in ways never before possible. Thank you for sharing.

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