“There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” So says Madeleine L’Engle in her marvelous book about art and faith. Why is there nothing secular that cannot be sacred? Because God created everything. Evil created nothing. All that exists either is good, or can be good. Those things which seem evil are only good things that have been perverted. God created everything good, therefore everything can be made sacred. And so God becomes flesh, the Incarnation happens, showing that even these fleshly bodies can be made godly, sacred.
L’Engle takes this connection between art and the Incarnation and runs with it. “…To paint a picture or to write a story or to compose a song is an incarnational activity.” Creating art is taking Love, Truth, the spiritual, and making them ‘in carne’–in the flesh. Creating art is taking Love, Truth, the spiritual, and incarnating them that we might see them and experience them more clearly. “Basically there can be no categories such as ‘religious’ art and ‘secular’ art because all true art is incarnational, and therefore ‘religious’.”
The topics covered in this book are numerous–what makes art “good”, what makes art “Christian”. What it means to be a “children’s” author. The positive and negative aspects of using labels for art (or anything else) are discussed. This book is not just for art critics or art lovers. On the surface, this book is about faith and art. It is more so about living an Incarnational life–living a life which reflects the One who created us in the first place. And living a life which reflects the creativity with which He made us.
I have read this book a number of times, and I see more in it every time I read it. “In art…we are helped to remember some of the glorious things we have forgotten…” This is exactly how I feel when I read this book. Every time I read it I seem to remember more and more things that have been lost along the way. I remember what it was like to be a child and let my imagination run wild. I remember what it is we are called to. I remember Who it is I am supposed to be reflecting. If you want to read “Walking On Water” because you are interested in art criticism, then by all means do so. If nothing else, though, read “Walking on Water” in order to remember who we are and to better remember the One who made us.