The Evidentiary Power of Beauty


No, I don't plan to review the very fine book by Father Thomas Dubay. As with all book by Fr. Dubay, this is a dense, thorough study of its intended subject.

I chose this title because it is, perhaps, the most meaningful to me in my personal encounters with God. I would expand it--The evidentiary and experiential power of beauty.

In beauty, true beauty, we encounter God directly, if sometimes at a distance, masked by the surface. God is, of course, the source of all beauty, goodness, and truth. If there is an aesthetic appeal to an object, a true beauty, it is one way God calls to us.

I read great works of literature, view great art, listen to music, great and otherwise, and I experience God speaking through His people. There are times when I am stunned into a real silence, the silence in which I encounter God in prayer.

We've all had this experience--something so lovely it takes the breath away, we are literally gasping at the sight or experience of it. The divine has intruded momentarily into the senses. We see Him, however dimly, however much at a distance.

And what is most remarkable is that this is despite the intention of the artist. The other day I found a You-Tube video by Gary Numan titled something like "Prayer for a Dead Girl," in which he is obviously lamenting a still-born child or a child lost early-on in development and comes to the conclusion that indeed there is and can be no God. And in coming to that conclusion, he uncloaks for a moment God's face, a face filled with love, compassion, and genuine empathy/sympathy--a face that knows and understands what it is to lose a beloved child.

Beauty isn't God. Art is not God. Music is not God. Literature is not God. Nothing of human or natural creation is God and it is a serious error to suppose that it is. Emerson made this error consistently and stridently. No, none of these things is God; however, if we are looking and listening, we can experience God through great and even not-so-great works of art and beauty.

The senses are where we start this journey--but it is not the end. Beauty is not the end--it is merely the signpost pointing to the end. We start by being engaged, called to Him through whatever it is that we find lovely and attractive. But to find Him, what must leave behind the lesser beauties to find the eternal beauty--the perfection of beauty. We must gaze upon the Face of God through His Son, Jesus Christ who while he may not have been beautiful in human terms was the Incarnation of beauty, and who revealed the meaning of beauty--the love of God given us to remind us to come home.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 17, 2007 8:30 AM.

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