In 1453, towards the East, a disaster befell Christianity, really humanity at large. Meanwhile in the West a Renaissance was occurring. But a rebirth of what?
We call it Humanism
That’s not an inaccurate name because in fact it was a rejection of revelation, of the wisdom and works of God as uncovered, revealed to man in favour of man placing himself as the centrepiece of an immanent paradise.
Humanism’s initial focus was on Beauty, the animating principle of the world, that which draws, attracts, motivates. It took the transcendental Beauty of nature and fashioned it into artefacts of man producing undeniable results, great cities, eternal cities even…or so we like to think. A rejection of the Holy Spirit in favour of the Zeitgeist, the Spirit of the Age, the Spirit of Man.
Enlightened Truth and an Awakening to the Good
There would be progress. The transcendental Truth of revelation would be supplanted by immanent Truth. Man would find his own way led by his own lights, humanity enlightened by the brilliance of a thousand sons but not sons of God. They would come to know a new Truth but has that Truth set us free?
Such an Enlightenment was just a precondition. The purpose of light is to awaken, to awaken to the Good. And who has become the arbiter of what is Good? Man seeks to become his own father, the centrepiece of his own divine garden, the very tree or source of the knowledge of good and evil. This is our present circumstance. The Good, the True, the Beautiful as determined by man, immanent in the world. However, allow me to digress, concluding with the subject of Beauty.
The Divine Revelation
The very architecture of this former cathedral, now mosque is what we call Beautiful. The iconography that is filling it up is yet a further act of Beautification. Not because it is particularly Beautiful in and of itself. I
think it can scarcely compete with a weed, a dandelion outside that we might
carelessly trample underfoot. No, it is because it points towards a greater
reality, that which is irreducible in human experience, that which forms the
basis of our definitions and to which none of our definitions are applicable.
Beauty is but the Truth of the Good spoken to humanity in our native tongue. Beauty is a revelation. Beauty is the gift of God.
Contributed by Patrick Webb