December 27, 2009

"Goodness becomes a value of no delight..."

A snippet from an intriguing book I've just started to read, The Beauty of Holiness and the Holiness of Beauty by John Saward...

...Hans Urs von Balthasar regarded the separation of theology from sanctity as the most tragic divorce in the history of the Church. In an essay written over forty years ago, he pointed out that, since the golden age of Scholasticism, the Curch has found few theologians in whom she recognizes heroic virtue. by contrast, in the Patristic centuries and during the Middle Ages (up to and including the greatb Schoolmen) the great theologians were saints: they practised what they preached and preached what the practised. Sacred leaning coincided with saintly living. The sanctity of the theologians gave the People of God a great confidence in their teaching. Their faith was vibrantly alive with charity, and their understanding of faith perfected by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. They spoke with authority of the God whom they loved above all else.

Whenever the Patristic and medieval unity is lost, theology turns into ideology, and spirituality becomes psychology. In the heresy of Modernism, we find a vivid example of this disintegration: a vague 'mysticism', a cult of subjective experience, displaces the objective truth of Divine Revelation, leaving theology the degrading task of applauding worldly wisdom. something similar happens when theology is cut off from iconography. Without the holy images, we are in danger of forgetting the face, and thus the flesh of the Son of God. The mysteries of the life of Jesus fade from our minds. In the eighth and ninth and sixteenth centuries, and again in our own time, Iconoclasm always tends towards Docetism. Robbed of the beauty of sacred art, the Christian can become blind to the beauty of Divine Revelation. And that is disastrous, for, when sundered from beauty, truth becomes a correctness without splendor, and goodness a value of no delight. As Balthasar says:

Our situation shows that beauty demands for herself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at ehr name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past—whether he admits it or not—can no longer pray, and soon will no longer be able to love...

Posted by John Weidner at December 27, 2009 10:51 PM
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