Blog 2 Divine Revelation
When I read the question “What does beauty have to do with divine revelation” for this blog, I immediately thought, “How can it really be interpreted as anything but beautiful”. First, looking at the concept of divine revelation itself (without yet bringing in the readings), God is revealing His truths so that we might be able to enter into communion with Him. It is literally God giving His only son so that we can know and serve Him better. This self-giving sacrifice is love in its purest form, and what about that isn’t beautiful? Balthasar takes this further by suggesting how we might address that beauty in the fullest (because it is possible to know this beauty and still squander it). Appreciating the divine revelation at a purely aesthetic level does not lead to a deeper understanding of God. Comprehending that it is beautiful is not in any sense equivalent to encountering the love of this gift. He discusses how entering into this “artwork” of divine revelation is what draws us into our spiritual life as a disciple of Christ, and what allows us to experience discipleship in a deeper way. To appreciate beauty, action must be taken. One cannot be a passive bystander.
Christ is God’s greatest work of art. By Christ’s revelation, our notion of beauty has been changed because we can see beauty through both his divinity and his humanity. In order to experience the beauty of the artwork that is Christ, we must take part in the truths that are taught by his humanness. This means that through events of horrific suffering, such as his crucifixion (something that is very untraditionally “beautiful”), the fullness of Christ’s humanity allows him to make the ultimate sacrifice of love within that mortal realm to express truth and beauty. God taking human form through Christ is what allows His followers to understand that human action can be beautiful. The beauty of faith takes place within the body, but, additionally, externally as well. Beauty that was once thought to only be acceptable if abstract now can take a concrete form.
The senses are formed to recognize this beauty because they allow the internal to be externally manifested. If the entire point is that beauty must not just be thought of, but lived out, then humans need tools to do that. God, of course, did not leave us hanging, and gave us ways to express and enter into the truths that He presented to us through our senses. Catholics in my life today experience no shortage of external religious stimuli that prompts beautiful encounters. When I walk down my stairs at home I am all but forced to look at an 8’x6’ oil painting of Mary holding baby Jesus, and that is the tip of the iceberg of religious paintings on the walls. Holy water sits on our shelves to be touched in important times, music boxes can be heard singing catholic songs of praise. My parents love to tap themselves with the sign of the cross when I let an “omg” loose. Even addressing the catholic mass, the most crucial belief is that the bread and wine (which are tasted/consumed) are physically becoming the body and blood of Christ. If physically sensed elements were not crucially central to the faith, I do not think anyone would be very intent on consuming God every mass. Cone relays how singing and oral history is practically the only way enslaved people could pass down their faith. Without even trying, they use their sense of hearing to partake in the beauty of their faith, which leads into the communal aspect of beauty as well. They are reliant on their community to pass on the traditions and knowledge of their faith. While this might be more extreme than how information is passed on today, it is still a necessary example because only through unity within a community is beauty able to come about. In order to partake in divine revelation you have to acknowledge that your neighbors are a part of the physicality of your faith. A community is called to become beautiful because together, entering into God’s truth can be elevated higher than what one can achieve alone.