Art & the Incarnation

posted 4/14/20

I read an interview yesterday that Catholic News Agency did with the artist Osamu Giovanni Micico.  Osamu was born in Tokyo in 1982 and from a young age had always been interested in art and drawing. In order to please his parents he originally planned on pursuing a career in the sciences, but while in university an artist encouraged him to pursue his passion, which was painting.  Osamu mostly painted landscapes, but he would occasionally try to develop his technique by copying the works of the Italian Rennaissance.  Eventually, Osamu decided to intensify his study of Rennaissance art by moving to Florence. Although he was very familiar with the technical mastery of artists such as Leonardo Di Vinci and Michelangelo, he knew virtually nothing of the subject matter that made up most of their compositions.  He had never read the Bible, he was unfamiliar with the life of Christ, and he had never heard of the Apostles. Osamu says that he would go to an exhibit and ask his friend, who was Catholic, “Who are those fishermen?”    

The art became his gateway to faith.  “I think like music, those paintings spoke to me with harmony and it animated my soul. It was not just technique – that they made a realistic painting – but there was something else that was very holy there.”  In 2010, Osamu was baptized, and his godfather was the Irish sculptor Dony MacManus.  It was MacManus who introduced Osamu to St. John Paul II’s catechesis, which is known as “Theology of the Body.”  This made a lasting impression on Osuma.  John Paul II emphasized in his teachings that our bodies reveal us to others and that we encounter and know the world and each other through our bodies.  The central Christian mystery of the Incarnation is so remarkable because it means that God revealed Himself to us through His sacred humanity, that is, He revealed Himself to us bodily.  And so we know that our bodies are not just shells in which our spiritual selves reside; we are not ghosts inhabiting machines.  Our bodies are central to who we are, and the fact that God has a human nature, which includes a human body, means that our bodies are sacred – like His.  The material world is not an obstacle to our encounter with the divine.  It is actually the way in which we encounter Him.  This is a distinguishing feature of our Catholic faith.  For example, both Judaism and Islam, which do not believe in the Incarnation, prohibit the artistic depiction of God and often throughout history have discouraged figurative sculpture and painting, associating it with the Lord’s prohibition of graven images and idolatry.  As a Catholic artist, however, Osuma can say that through art, “one can intuit the beauty of a creator.”  He continues, noting: “Ultimately, God the merciful was represented in the painting… that’s what spoke to me.”  This representation is only possible because of the Incarnation. 

As I reflected on Osuma’s story, it made me think that this current “fast from encounter,” in which we are deprived of each other’s company, is revealing more and more the central importance of the Incarnation and the truth of John Paul II’s insights.  Technology may allow us to communicate and see each other through Skype and Zoom and other forms of media.  But that experience is completely different than sitting in the same room with someone.  Those technologies are simulations of presence that cannot remedy our feelings of loneliness and isolation.  We crave true presence, which is bodily.  It is this that makes us miss Mass so much, and the gift that is Holy Communion, where we encounter the risen Lord of mercy not just in the Spirit, but bodily. 

A Word of Thanks

I just want to thank all of you who have been so thoughtful and generous in your material support of the parish at this time. I know things are not easy and there is much uneasiness about the future these days, so please know that I really appreciate it. God bless you.

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