Jul 27, 2011
In what sense can we speak of the beauty of Christ? In the next few reflections, this topic will receive our focus. When something beautiful reveals itself to you, whether animate or inanimate, and you perceive it as beautiful, you allow yourself to be drawn to it. You are transported from your self to the beautiful. You may be in a stationery position, but your attention is captured by the beautiful thing. This dynamic movement, uniting your very self with the beautiful, has made you a better person for that experience. The common parlance refers to it an ‘aha’ experience. Experience with the beautiful prepares us for the encounter with the beauty of Christ. Not so with ugliness unless an artist like Shakespeare is portraying evil personified in a masterful way. The Bard’s depiction of ugliness urges us to repudiate it.
Most assuredly, ugliness and pornography, like beauty, fascinate the eye. But unlike beauty, they prowl about to lure us into their wiles. We fix our gaze on an ugly or horrific thing, but its purpose is singular: to debase and drag us down until we are ashamed and embarrassed for having engaged in the activity. They can never prepare us for an encounter with the beauty of Christ. So saturated is the culture with offensive images that we fail to see that they weaken our ability to enjoy beauty. Vulgar media that include most sitcoms, soaps, talk shows, and TV commercials, are antithetical to an encounter with the beauty of Christ.
1. Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Form of God’s Glory
Christianity remains implausible without the two fundamental dogmas of the Incarnation and the Trinity. Jesus is the appearance of God who does not appear in the world, a world marked by the creator’s artistry. What Jesus was, he remains–God; what he was not, he assumed–human nature (St. Augustine, “Faith, Hope, and Love XI”). Jesus is the reason for Christian faith and the form of Christianity because he is its content. It was out of the question for a Jew to think of God in human form. In the Old Testament, the equivalent of the external form of God would be his glory. Glory includes the radiance of holiness, splendor of beauty, truth, and goodness—the perfection of all attributes. Form is understood in the sense that Jesus possessed the quality associated with the glory of Yahweh in the Old Testament. He is the objective self-expression of God’s glory, God’s Word and Image, Expression and Exegesis. Divine glory appears in the humanity of Jesus and in his marvelous deeds. His human form emerges and sheds its light from his divine glory and not from subjective evidence.
Before all else, Jesus is the face of God, icon of the Father. Jesus’ beauty has in itself the interior rightness and evidential power to illumine the perceiving person by his own radiant light. We accept him just as he offers himself to us down to the smallest detail. The hymn quoted below beautifully expresses the glory of the Lord:
Jesus is the brightness of the Father’s glory
Springing from eternal light,
Source of light by light engendered,
Day enlightening every day.