Converging and Convincing Proof of God: Beauty Ever Ancient Ever New
rolling in the snow, St. Bernard throwing himself in an icy pond, and St. Benedict diving into a thorny bush to preserve the virtue. It can't.
Unfortunately, the bluntness, we might even say the philistinism, of science and technology and consumerist capitalism means that there is often no appreciation of beauty in our hyper-technical, economically-efficient, and consumer-oriented world.
The Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar believed there was a real need among moderns to rediscover the beautiful because encounter with the beautiful led to the encounter with God. As he wrote in his book Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics: "Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance."
So we must leave science whose sensitivities are dulled to the reality of beauty, and adopt the more flexible and more broad way of thinking that John Henry Newman called the illative sense. Using this illative sense, can we not say, must we not say, that there must be some underlying ground to the beauty of things, a Beauty behind all things beautiful? A Beauty to which we appear to have a intrinsic disposition, a sort of naturally-built inclination? Are we not indirectly encountering God when we encounter beauty whether in nature, in art, or in moral selflessness?
Emily Dickinson wrote about the elusive, and yet real, quality of beauty, beauty that is not caused by man and so must be caused by an Other, beauty that may be chased without ever being caught, and beauty which abides even if it is not chased.
Beauty -- be not caused -- It Is --
Chase it, and it ceases --
Chase it not, and it abides --
It remains something that we chase, but which, as it is a transcendent reality, is something we cannot ever hope to comprehend, whether it is the beauty behind a beautiful woman, a simple mathematical formula, the aurora borealis in north Alaska, Michelangelo's Pieta at St. Peter's in the Vatican, or the marvelous church of Mont Saint Michel in Normandy. It remains as elusive as catching the wind, for it is something of the spirit, and like the Spirit, it blows where it will. (cf. John 3:8)
Overtake the Creases
In the Meadow -- when the Wind
Runs his fingers thro' it --
Deity will see to it
That You never do it --
Beauty, though certainly intelligible, remains undefinable as God is undefinable. That, however, does not make it less real.
The Definition of Beauty is
That Definition is none --
Of Heaven, easing Analysis,
Since Heaven and He are one.
So wrote Emily Dickinson. She was in an Augustinian mood that day. Si comprehenderis, non est Deus. If you understand it, it is not God, St. Augustine said, emphasizing the incomprehensible Truth that is God. He may have just as well said, si comprehenderis not est Pulchrus. If you understand it, it is not Beauty, at least not the Beauty ever Ancient ever New.
For Augustine knew that whereas there is beauty in created things that we experience, there is only One in Whom beauty is not in, but rather One Who Beauty is, the Beauty in which all beautiful things participate and the Beauty that, in reality, we all restlessly seek. And when we find this Beauty, it is always too late, since this Beauty is something for which we were made from the first moment of our conception. By the grace of God, Mary, the tota pulchra, the all-beautiful, is the only creature that got it right.
At the time of his death, the American essayist, political philosopher, professor and Catholic priest, Fr. Ernest Fortin is said to have sat up in his bed quite suddenly and remarked, "I see something beautiful." It was a four-word essay, his shortest and last. Surely, it was an essay about the beauty that is God, a Beauty that beckons us in the beautiful?
O Deus pulcherrimus, iube me venire ad te!
Oh God most beautiful, beckon me to come to you!
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: proof of God, beauty, illative sense, art, moral good, saints, Andrew M. Greenwell
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Year of Faith News
- THURSDAY HOMILY: Becoming Salty Christians in a World Without Flavor, Rotting from Within
- True and False Spirituality: Beware the Friends of Job or How to Deal With Fair-weather Friends
- WEDNESDAY HOMILY: Finding God Where You Would Rather Not Look
- TUESDAY HOMILY: Holy and Unholy Ambition
- SUNDAY HOMILY: The Happy Priest - Come Holy Spirit
- MONDAY HOMILY: I Do Believe, Help My Unbelief!
- We Need a New Pentecost: Come Holy Spirit, Come With Your Fire!
- Peter and John, Two Pillars and Two Paths
- FRIDAY HOMILY: Follow Me
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?