We have reached the penultimate chapter of Pope St. John Paul II’s 1999 Letter to Artists. Today, he looks at the role of the Holy Spirit in creation at the dawn of the universe and now, as you and I sit down to write.
If you would like to read the whole of the Pope’s letter you can do so at the Vatican website here
The Creator Spirit and artistic inspiration
15. Often in the Church there resounds the invocation to the Holy Spirit: Veni, Creator Spiritus… – “Come, O Creator Spirit, visit our minds, fill with your grace the hearts you have created”.
The Holy Spirit, “the Breath” (ruah), is the One referred to already in the Book of Genesis: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (1:2). What affinity between the words “breath – breathing” and “inspiration”! The Spirit is the mysterious Artist of the universe. Looking to the Third Millennium, I would hope that all artists might receive in abundance the gift of that creative inspiration which is the starting-point of every true work of art.
Dear artists, you well know that there are many impulses which, either from within or from without, can inspire your talent. Every genuine inspiration, however, contains some tremor of that “breath” with which the Creator Spirit suffused the work of creation from the very beginning. Overseeing the mysterious laws governing the universe, the divine breath of the Creator Spirit reaches out to human genius and stirs its creative power. He touches it with a kind of inner illumination which brings together the sense of the good and the beautiful, and he awakens energies of mind and heart which enable it to conceive an idea and give it form in a work of art. It is right then to speak, even if only analogically, of “moments of grace”, because the human being is able to experience in some way the Absolute who is utterly beyond.
(of the present writer, not nec. LCWC opinions)
- “Often in the Church…” What is to be gained from repetition? How does repeating Veni, Creator Spiritus help us? One might as well ask how reading helps us to write; the two are separate activities, after all. But actually, they are not; reading and writing are most intimately connected. By reading we feed our imagination, we improve our vocabulary, and see examples of good (and bad) writing that we can then use to help us find our own literary voices. Likewise with repeating invocations such as Veni, Creator Spiritus. As long as we look always beyond them, these words connect us ever more strongly to God. They remind us of His presence, assure us of His artistry, and leads us in our work. Invocations are ink.
- “What affinity between the words “breath – breathing” and “inspiration”!” Something else that invocations do is help us to breath. Repeating Veni, Creator Spiritus helps us to control our breathing and thus concentrate our minds. In turn, this gives space for inspiration to strike and ideas to take root.
- “Every genuine inspiration, however, contains some tremor of that “breath” with which the Creator Spirit suffused the work of creation from the very beginning.” This is an amazing thought, one which – if it is not inappropriate to say in the context – takes my breath away. I shall certainly remember it next time I am looking at my rubbish first draft.