Finding the truth by seeing God’s beauty

  • March 21, 2024

As we journey through our life as Christians, seeking to grow in faith and wisdom, we discover we are hard-wired as human beings that bear God’s image and likeness to seek truth, beauty and goodness. These are properties of being, of God. He reveals this to Moses in Exodus chapter 3 when Moses asks God what His name is. God tells him, “I AM WHO I AM.”

God in His nature is what we mean by true, good and beautiful. God is not a being like other things; He is Being itself. So, what we discern through our God-given reason as being true, good and beautiful all point back to God. Yet, so often as we seek the true, the good and the beautiful we become misled due to our fallenness and begin to see these things as subjective and not objective: as being all about me.

We want to determine for ourselves what is true, good and beautiful even if the things we pursue as such fall very far short of these transcendentals. For example, a teenager might convince himself that smoking cannabis is a good thing because it helps him relax and his pals do it, even if it is stunting his brain’s development.

A person might be confused that a secular ideology is true and end up supporting abortion or assisted suicide in the false belief that they are actually upholding human dignity. Our pride obscures our ability to see God is the source of all that is good, true and beautiful and He has imprinted His attributes on what He has created and redeemed!

So how can we discern these things correctly? How can we avoid a subjective determination of the true, the good and the beautiful?

God reveals Himself in many different ways. He is revealed in the created world, as the Psalmist proclaims in Psalm 19: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.” He is found in every human heart, in our conscience, which is faculty of the heart. Here God imprints His law within us, with our conscience as His vicar, as St. John Henry Newman has said. God reveals Himself in the Incarnate One, Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer: “He who has seen me, has seen the Father” (John 14:9), and, “For it is the God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

Finally, He reveals Himself in the Bible, in both the Old and New covenants. We grow in the knowledge of God through daily prayer, through reading the Holy Scriptures and participating in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, which prepares us to go into the world as God’s ministers. These central aspects of a Catholic life order us toward encountering the true, the good and the beautiful. Yet, if there is one way in which we are failing spectacularly it is in encountering God in beauty by seeing Him revealed in the created world.

We so often fall short, in our busy, news-dense and social media-obsessed world, of seeing His beauty. Our heads are glued to screens and we are captured in an unreal, dare I say dehumanized, existence with our virtual experiences and our virtual relationships. These unreal aspects of our lives are becoming dominant. Such existence is abetted by our corrupted attention spans, our lack of time spent in quiet reflection, in contemplation of what is around us and what is real. It relates to our lack of wonder about things. I often ask the young adults I minister to, “When was the last time you read a good novel? When was the last time you listened to beautiful music for the sheer joy of it? When was the last time you read poetry out loud or contemplated a beautiful work of art? When did you last gaze at the stars?” Most of them say either they cannot remember when they did, or they say they never do these things.

Now is the time for us to rediscover the beauty around us and to teach Catholics how to live our lives as if beauty mattered. Then we would long to spend more time with Him who is most beautiful.

(The Reverend Andrew Bennett is a deacon of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada.)

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