God therefore called man into existence, committing to him the craftsman’s task. Through his “artistic creativity” man appears more than ever “in the image of God”, and he accomplishes this task above all in shaping the wondrous “material” of his own humanity and then exercising creative dominion over the universe which surrounds him. With loving regard, the divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in his creative power. Obviously, this is a sharing which leaves intact the infinite distance between the Creator and the creature, as Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa made clear: “Creative art, which it is the soul’s good fortune to entertain, is not to be identified with that essential art which is God himself, but is only a communication of it and a share in it”.
That is why artists, the more conscious they are of their “gift”, are led all the more to see themselves and the whole of creation with eyes able to contemplate and give thanks, and to raise to God a hymn of praise. This is the only way for them to come to a full understanding of themselves, their vocation and their mission. (Letter to Artists, paragraph 1)
Maybe I’m the only one who experiences this, but it seems that in the Catholic bubble, people only talk about vocation in terms of marriage or priesthood/religious life. Very rarely do we talk about vocation in terms of work or talent. But JPII is telling us here that artists have a vocation as artists, and that’s really refreshing and exciting to me – to know that I’m actually called (vocation comes from the Latin vocare, “to call”) to be an artist. To know that it’s not just some whacky, misguided desire. To know that God, “with loving regard,” actually desires it for me.
What’s even more profound, however, is that I can only understand my vocation by recognizing: 1) that I share in God’s creative power, and 2) that there is an “infinite distance” between God and me. I have to know both of these things in order to even understand who I am as an artist, let alone what I’m supposed to do with my art. But the more I do understand that both of these things add up to my “gift” as an artist, the more I am able to use my art the way I’m supposed to – to contemplate, to give thanks, and above all, to give praise to God.
Lord, help me to recognize and understand this “gift,” this sharing in your power, and this infinite distance between you, my Creator, and me, your lowly creature. Help me to see myself and the world with eyes that contemplate, give thanks, and raise hymns of praise to you. Amen.