Converging and Convincing Proof of God: Beauty Ever Ancient Ever New
Priester, ich möchte für den da sterben, Ich bin alt und allein, und er hat Frau und Kinder." I am a Catholic priest, I wish to die in his place. I am old and alone, and he has wife and children."
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Maximilian Kolbe acted out a moral poetry which is nothing less the beautiful. The more we approach sinlessness, the more beautiful we are. That is why the Saints' lives are beautiful. We might remember that the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was conceived without sin, is traditionally regarded as the most beautiful of all creatures: Tota pulchra es, Maria, et macula originalis non est in te. "You are all beautiful, Mary, for there is no original stain of sin in you."
Beauty is felt as something received, not only the beauty in nature, but even the beauty that arises when the artist or the saint "cooperates by his action in its manifestation." Beauty, says the holy Pope, is discovered and admired fully only when man "recognizes its source, the transcendent beauty of God." In a word, beauty is grace, and all grace is from God.
Though often overlooked because it is not found in his well-known Summae, St. Thomas Aquinas advanced a proof of God's existence from beauty. We can find it expressed by the young St. Thomas Aquinas in his Commentary on the Sentences.
"In everything in which is found a more and less beautiful (speciosum), there is found some principle of the beauty (speciositatis principium), and something is called beautiful by its nearness to it."
This beauty is found in things that are sensed (a beautiful woman, a beautiful painting, a beautiful act of self-sacrifice). But there is also intellectual or spiritual beauty. Mathematicians, for example, have spoken about the beauty of their discipline. Bertrand Russell famously wrote in an essay, "Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty--a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show." If mathematics is beautiful, a human soul infused with sanctifying grace and the angels of God, we may believe, are even more beautiful.
St. Thomas recognized both sensual and intellectual forms of beauty, insisted that the intellectual form of beauty was superior, but also insisted that they both participate in the same reality, the transcendent Beauty.
"Now we see a body to be beautiful in a sensible way (specie); a spirit more beautiful in an intelligible way (specie)."
What is this beauty that spans both the senses and the intellect? Surely it is a transcendent reality? And precisely such does St. Thomas conclude: "Therefore it is necessary that there be something by which both are beautiful, to which created spirits more draw near to." This something is God, the preeminent Beauty.
Created spirits such as man "draw near to" beauty, says St. Thomas. Subjectively, we are capable of experiencing beauty. Man is capax pulchri, capable of relating to beauty, like he is capax Dei, capable of relating to God.
A materialist philosophy has an almost impossible time explaining the human capacity for, the human experience of, and the human delight in, beauty, as much as it has difficulty in explaining man's constant hankering after God. As Arthur J. Balfour stated in his 1914 Gifford Lectures in an understated British way, there is a certain "incongruity between our feelings of beauty and a materialistic account of their origin."
To argue that our sense of beauty--something which seems to contribute little to theory of natural selection which materialist evolutionists tout as the full and entire explanation for man's existence--is a product of chance, "harmonizes ill with the importance which civilized man assigns" to beauty in the "scheme of his values."
No, it seems more sensible to believe, like the philosopher F. R. Tennant put it, that "the beauty of Nature may not only be assigned a cause, but also a meaning, or a revelational function." In other words, nature's beauty, and by extension the beauty in human art and human moral action, speaks to us about the Creator God.
A one-dimensional, materialistic, empirically-based scientific knowledge can tell us nothing virtually nothing about beauty. As the physicist John Polkinghorne put it at the beginning of his book The Way the World Is: "Beauty slips through the scientist's net." Have science explain the beauty of the Grand Canyon, or the beauty of a Giotto fresco, or the beauty of chastity and St. Francis ...
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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
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