Sunday, March 24, 2013

Beauty is catalytic

Just as there is a dynamism among the three core spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving, there is a similar dynamism that obtains among the three transcendentals: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Once again, returning to the fact that prior to discerning a call to priesthood and religious life, Pope Francis trained to become a chemist, earning a Master's degree in Chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires, I'll employ a chemical metaphor. Instead of polyvalence, I turn to a more familiar concept, that of a catalyst. A catalyst is a substance introduced to increase the rate of a chemical reaction.

Unknown Master, French, Three Scenes (1350-75), Alabaster, Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp

According to this metaphor, in the case of the three core spiritual disciplines, fasting serves a catalyst, moving prayer to service, or alms-giving. Applied to the three transcendentals, Beauty is the catalyst, helping to transform Truth into Goodness. Of course the fundamental dynamism of reality is the Most Holy Trinity. If I were push this metaphor, which is really to do nothing other than economically schematize God, it seems to me that the Son is the catalyst.

Even Plato noticed, across many of his Socratic dialogues, that threeness, if you will, seems built into the structure of reality, most notably in his tripartate division of the human soul (i.e., pysche) in the Republic.

Stated simply, just as fasting helps turn prayer into service (i.e., diakonia) Beauty helps turn Truth into Good[ness]. Beauty also opens us to wonder, which is necessary to apprehend truth.

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