Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Wounding Beauty: An Unexpected Love

The transcendental of Truth shouldn’t be our only weapon against the “tyranny of relativism” and modern man’s rejection of God. Rejection of God is more than a rejection of Truth but also of true Goodness and Beauty. For those who shut their ears at the mere mention of truth, perhaps helping them realize the truth and goodness within beauty is a first step.

We all feel the longing for meaning. Even those who are self-proclaimed hedonists living for the pleasures of the moment give partial lip service to their idol. They’re still living for something, even if it is a perversion of a good. Maybe they will best understand true beauty when they experience it – assuming they allow their hearts to be opened when they do.

As Christians we experience the true beauty of Christ, his love and his wounds. This beauty is both true and good in its essence, which are only different aspects of the same reality. In Cardinal Ratzinger’s “The Beauty and the Truth of Christ” he presents us with the paradox of a beauty not overcome by aesthetics or grotesqueness: the beauty of eternal love made manifest in the life, suffering, and death of Jesus, our Christ.

“Implicit here is the more radical question of whether beauty is true or whether it is not ugliness that leads us to the deepest truth of reality. Whoever believes in God, in the God who manifested himself, precisely in the altered appearance of Christ crucified as love "to the end" (Jn 13,1), knows that beauty is truth and truth beauty; but in the suffering Christ he also learns that the beauty of truth also embraces offence, pain, and even the dark mystery of death, and that this can only be found in accepting suffering, not in ignoring it.”

Ratzinger draws upon two sources, Plato and Nicholas Cabasilas.

“Plato contemplates the encounter with beauty as the salutary emotional shock that makes man leave his shell and sparks his "enthusiasm" by attracting him to what is other than himself. Man, says Plato, has lost the original perfection that was conceived for him. He is now perennially searching for the healing primitive form.”

Beauty begins and continually revitalizes man’s search for the “other,” an “other” who possesses perfection. It lifts him out of himself and causes him to suffer the longing for the restoration of that which has been lost in himself. Few could look at Mother Teresa at the bedside of the dying and not be wounded by the scene’s beauty. Here is a suffering so beautiful that it will break your heart.

He then cites Cabasilas:

"When men have a longing so great that it surpasses human nature and eagerly desire and are able to accomplish things beyond human thought, it is the Bridegroom who has smitten them with this longing. It is he who has sent a ray of his beauty into their eyes. The greatness of the wound already shows the arrow which has struck home, the longing indicates who has inflicted the wound" (cf. The Life in Christ, the Second Book).

What greater beauty can be found than in He who is Beauty, God incarnate. When we become like Christ, we reflect His beauty with all the wounds and humility accompanying this beautiful Christian life. We become the saints God predestined us to be, and “nothing but saints can save our world.”

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