it’s been many years since I first came across the work of the late great Madeleine L’Engle, author of the beloved A Wrinkle in Time.
Back when I was a member of a much-missed Mythopoeic reading group, we read L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.
The intersection of faith, spirituality, and literature is one of the subjects closest to my heart—how to incorporate spirituality in your writing, and how not to at any cost. With that in view, I’d like to share a couple of quotes from the early portion of this wonderful book, with the recommendation that all spiritually-engaged writers take it up. It plays especially well as a temporary part of a daily spiritual practice.
“Christian art? Art is art; painting is painting; music is music; a story is a story. If it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject. If it’s good art—and there the questions start coming, questions which is would be simpler to evade.” (p.14)
“…as I listen to the silence, I learn that my feelings about art and my feelings about the Creator of the Universe are inseparable. To try to talk about art and about Christianity is for me one and the same thing, and it means attempting to share the meaning of my life, what gives it, for me, its tragedy and its glory.” (p. 16)
“…all art is cosmos, cosmos found within chaos. At least all Christian art (by which I mean all true art, and I’ll go deeper into this later) is cosmos in chaos. There’s some modern art, in all disciplines, which is not; some artists look at the world around them and see chaos, and instead of discovering cosmos, they reproduce chaos, on canvas, in music, in words. As far as I can see, the reproduction of chaos is neither art, nor is it Christian.” (p. 17)
“…to paint a picture or to write a story or to compose a song is an incarnational activity. The artist is a servant who is willing to be a birthgiver. In a very real sense the artist (mail or female) should be like Mary who, when the angel told her that she was to bear the Messiah, was obedient to the command.” (p. 18)
“Basically there can be no categories such as ‘religious’ art and ‘secular’ art, because all true art is incarnational, and therefore ‘religious.'” (p. 25)