Monday, February 21, 2005

Spiritual Formation and the Arts

The heart, the inner spirit and will of a person, is the most inaccessible part of a person to try and form. The mind can be spoken to directly, the body can be dealt with tangibly . . . but the heart seems the hardest to reach.

Since the heart is connected in one person to the mind and body, there is an indirect route through those parts. Discourse that immediately engages the thinking of a person may have a deeper resonance into the heart. The actions of the body which can be disciplined may have repercussions to the spirit. But the hardest part to reach, is the most important to be shaped.

We know that out of the heart a person speaks, meaning that both the thoughts of the mind and actions of the body are directed by a person's spirit. Emotions too are reflections of one's heart. The essence of spiritual formation is focused on the transformation of the human spirit by God's Spirit -with consequences for every other part of a human being.

I wonder if the arts are a way of speaking more directly to the heart. Moving music, an engaging story, a well-directed film, evocative paintings, poetry, and many other 'arts' seem in my experience to get into a person's heart, or spirit . . . pushing beyond the mind's thoughts and body's actions.

Not every use of the arts speaks to every person's spirit, but I wonder if there is something of importance here of spiritual formation. The love for what is true, what is beautiful, what is merciful and just, what is good and hopeful - and for the practice of love itself - must be a matter of the reformation of the spirit.

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