Recently Pope Benedict XVI gave a homily on occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Sistine Chapel. He touched, guided by Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling, on a theme very dear to him: the purpose of creation. The idea that nature has a purpose, that creation is not a fruit of chance or only blind evolution has always been central in Ratzinger’s thought. You can see some examples here and here.
In his homily he had the following thing to say:
…the Sistine Chapel tells this story of light, of deliverance, of salvation; it speaks of God’s relationship with humanity. With the brilliant ceiling of Michelangelo, our gaze is driven to go over the message of the prophets, to which are added the pagan Sibyls in expectation of Christ, to the beginning of everything: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth” (Genesis 1:1). With unique expressive intensity, the great artist designed the Creator God, his action, his power, to say with evidence that the world is not produced from darkness, by chance, by the absurd, but derives from intelligence, from a liberty, from a supreme act of Love. In that meeting between the finger of God and that of man, we perceive the contact between heaven and earth; in Adam God enters into a new relationship with his creation, man is in direct relationship with Him, is called by Him, is in the image and likeness of God.
It is also curious to me how he image of the fingers of God and Adam is apparently so welcomed and popular, everywhere really. Teh Sistine Chapel is overcrowded, and certainly not by Christians alone. The images create no resistance at all. Yet the story it tells, that mankind has a privileged position in creation, of great favor and responsibility too, seems to be counter cultural in some way. Perhaps beauty is able to disarm intellectual mistrust and ideology.