An Intonation of Grace
“Beauty crosses boundaries. Among the transcendentals, beauty has always been the most restless upon its exalted perch; the idea of the beautiful — which somehow requires the sensual to fulfill its ‘ideal’ nature — can never really be separated from the beauty that lies bar at hand. … Beauty defies our distinctions, calls them into question, and manifests what shows itself despite them: God’s glory. For Christian thought, beauty’s indifference to the due order of far and near, great and small, absent and present, spiritual and material should indicate the continuity of divine and created glory, the way the glory of heaven and earth truly declares and belongs to the glory of the infinite God. As the particular diction of the grammar of glory that commends it to the delight of the creature, beauty shows nature to be an intonation of grace and creation to be full of divine splendor.
There is, moreover, a marvelous naïveté in the response most immediately provoked by the beautiful: neither in the Bible nor in patristic theology is God’s goodness, truth, or lordship distinguished from his glory, savor, or awesome holiness; that God is good may be seen and tasted; and this means that a theology of beauty should not scruple to express itself at times as an ontology, an epistemology, or an ethics. Concerning the last, theology should ponder how beauty can compel morally by its excess; it is in the delighted vision of what is other than oneself — difference, created by the God who differentiates, pleasing in the eyes of the God who takes pleasure — that one is moved to affirm that otherness, to cherish and respond to it; there is an initial aesthetic moment of wakefulness in the ethical, which Christian thought can grasp in light of what it says of God’s Trinity and his action in creation. Theology, finally, should be not only untroubled by beauty’s prodigality, it defiance of so many orderly demarcations, but heartened by it: the beautiful, uniquely, displays the dynamic involvement of the infinite and the finite, the unmasterable excess contained in the object of beauty, the infinite’s hospitality to the finite; and Christian thought, uniquely, must think the beautiful and the infinite together. Beauty crosses every boundary, traverses every series, and so manifests the God who transcends every division — including, again, that between the transcendent and the immanent.”
[David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite, 20–21]