People can get a glimpse of God in the world and in other people, but they must learn how to recognize it, Pope Benedict XVI said.
"There is a certain visibility of God in the church and in the world, and we must learn how to see it," the pope said April 29 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.
"God created humankind in his image, but this image is covered with so much dirt from sin that it is almost impossible to see," the pope said.
Pope Benedict's reflection on images of God in the world flowed from his main audience talk about the writings of St. Germanus, an 8th-century patriarch of Constantinople.
While Emperor Leo III was leading a campaign against the use of icons and other sacred images out of fear that devotion was turning into idolatry, St. Germanus defended their use in popular piety.
The pope said St. Germanus was known for his insistence that everything involved in the liturgy be beautiful, the pope said.
For the saint, the pope said, the beauty of the words used for preaching, and especially for prayers, "is as important in the liturgy as the beauty of the sacred building in which it takes place."
"The beauty of words and language, the beauty of the building and of the music must all match," the pope said.
While St. Germanus lived more than 1,200 years ago, the pope said that Christians today still could learn from him.
His first lesson, the pope said, is that "in Christ, the true image of God, we can contemplate the face of God and we can learn to be truly human images of God. Christ calls us to imitate him, to be like him so that in every person the face of God would shine through again."
Pope Benedict said it is true that "against idolatry and all the temptations of paganism, in the Ten Commandments God forbade the making of images of him. However, in Christ he became visible, in all the saints his face appears, and sacred images teach us to see God in the face of Christ, in the face of the saints (and) in the faces of all people."
The second thing St. Germanus taught was the importance of "celebrating the liturgy with an awareness of the presence of God, with beauty and dignity, that helps people see the splendor of God," the pope said.
The third lesson is "to love the church," he said.
"Perhaps we human beings see mostly the sins and the negative, but with the assistance of faith, which can help us see well, even today we can rediscover divine beauty in the church because it is in the church that God makes himself present (and) offers himself to us," the pope said.
"In the holy Eucharist he remains present for adoration; in the church God speaks to us, he walks with us as St. Germanus said; in the church we receive the forgiveness of God and learn to forgive," Pope Benedict said.
The pope ended his audience by praying that God "would teach us to see, to see his presence and beauty in the church, to see his presence in the world and to help us be transparent" so his light can shine through.
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