No bodies, no art, no sacraments

Jacques Maritain makes the following comment as to the aesthetic and imaginative necessity of embodiment for the possibility of art or “sub-creation”:

Art being of man, how could it not depend on the pre-existing structures and inclinations of the subject in which it dwells? They remain extrinsic to art, but they influence it…. But art does not reside in an angelic mind; it resides in a soul which animates a living body, and which, by the natural necessity in which it finds itself of learning, and progressing little by little and with the assistance of others, makes the rational animal a naturally social animal. Art is therefore basically dependent upon everything which the human community, spiritual tradition and history transmit to the body and mind of man. By its human subject and its human roots, art belong to a time and a country.” (Art and Scholasticism, 74)

In this opinion Maritain was joined by Catholic artist and poet David Jones, who applied Maritain’s point about art to the sacraments:

No wonder then that Theology regards the body as a unique good.  Without body: without sacrament.  Angels only: no sacrament.  Beasts only: no sacrament.  Man: sacrament at every turn and all levels of the ‘profane’ and ‘sacred’, in the trivial and in the profound, no escape from sacrament.” (Epoch and Artist, 167, also cited in Candler, “Tolkien or Nietzsche, Philology and Nihilism,” 11)

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