“Ultimately our true vocation and final destiny is to praise God in His Truth, Beauty and Goodness.”
Beauty from Emptiness
A beautiful spirit may shine even through a form that has been weakened. Drawing on both old and new testaments the early church fathers developed the doctrine of “kenosis” from a Greek word meaning emptiness. In the context of a theology of beauty kenosis refers to a humiliation of form, an emptying of one’s self, so that the divine beauty shines more brightly. In the Old Testament this theme is taken up in the suffering servant.
“You are the fairest of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you for ever.” (Psalms 45:2)
“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2)
In Christian thought this “kenotic veil” is the virtue of humility. Humility dims the beauty of the form and is a guard against the temptation of vanity.
“So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matthew 23:28)
“Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of fine clothing, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1Peter 3:3-4)
The so-called “Fools for Christ” took this idea to the extreme. These were individuals who denied themselves everything, including personal dignity, so that Christ may shine more radiantly through them. In such cases the ugliness of the infirmity becomes transfigured to serve the spirit within and becomes an icon of suffering and as such beautiful to behold.
By contrast there is ugliness without spirit, a perversion of natural being that borders on the demonic. Form without content, a hollow shell, it is the antithesis of being. When it manifests itself as art it shows us a world without God. Manifested in our perception of the created world, it offers us a glimpse of Hell, the negation of all that is good and beautiful and true.
An Act of Praise
Recognizing this inner beauty, this divine spark, within all things and drawing it out for others to see is the vocation of the artist. This is an act (Read More)