Theological Aesthetics I: Hans Urs von Balthasar and “Seeing the Form”


“Beauty is the last thing which the thinking intellect dares to approach, since only it dances as an uncontained splendor around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another… We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name … can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.”[1] – Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics

“The witness borne by Being becomes untrustworthy for  the person who can no longer read the language of beauty.”[2] – Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics

“Before the beautiful—no, not really before but within the beautiful—the whole person quivers. He not only ‘finds’ the beautiful moving; rather, he experiences himself as being moved and possessed by it.”[3] – Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics

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Beauty II: Theological Aesthetics Part Deux (Completing Balthasar)

Completing Balthasar: Garcia-Rivera and Community of the Beautiful

In developing the foundation of aesthetics, Balthasar leads us to rapture and ecstasy, beholding the splendor within the form.  But what becomes of reason? Can we be enraptured of a form which deceives us? Since all that glitters is not indeed gold, we find ourselves at the nexus of faith and reason, just as, Garcia-Rivera reminds us, Dante found himself as Virgil (classical virtue and reason) led him to the gates of Paradise, at which point he needed a more capable guide, the beautiful Beatrice (faith, with a loveliness spoken of by her beauty). Continue reading

Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment aka What Can’t You Get Away With

Essay 2.  Although Crime and Punishment was begun prior to Nietzsche’s first published work, The Birth of Tragedy, it nevertheless offers one of the finest ripostes to Nietzschean power philosophy. Consider the ways Dostoevsky answers Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity through the relationship between Raskolnikov and Sonia.


God is dead   – Nietzsche

Nietzsche is dead – God

<note:review of Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors is not contained herein, but it’s only Jan. 2 …>

the playful, t-shirt or bumper-snicker worthy sloganeering goes.  Death and life – Nietzsche posits the former (death of God) to find a place for the latter (life for man).  Jesus, of course, had his own take on the relationship: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 New KJV), “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39) and finally “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).  The nineteenth century Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky, also a Christian, embodied that life-giving power of Christ in his 1866 novel, Crime and Punishment, specifically in the love relationship between the Raskolnikov and Sonia.

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Orthodoxy IX: Authority and the Adventurer


as a placeholder until we get to discussing this finale to Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, we here begin with the finale.  His mention of mirth reminds me of the description of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings:

Thus Aragorn became at last the most hardy of living Men, skilled in their crafts and lore, and was yet more than they; for he was elvenwise, and there was a light in his eyes that when they were kindled few could endure. His face was sad and stern because of the doom that was laid on him, and yet hope dwelt ever in the depths of his heart, from which mirth would arise at times like a spring from the rock.   Return of the King, Appendix A.5,

gkc orth a

“And as I close this chaotic volume I open again the strange small book from which all Christianity came; and I am again haunted by a kind of confirmation. The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.”



Wordsworth, The Prelude – Lewis’s List #5



Surprised by Joy – as impatient as the wind – WW SBJ

It is difficult to find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton’s “enormous bliss” of Eden (giving the full, ancient meaning to “enormous”) comes somewhere near it – CSL SBJ

“When C.S. Lewis first read William Wordsworth as a teenager, he violently disliked him” Mary Ritter begins her chapter on Lewis’s #5 pick on his list of ten books which Lewis felt had “shaped his vocational attitude and philosophy of life.”[i]  Themes of Nature, of Reason and Imagination, and perhaps above all, Joy, are what Ritter cites as the most profound influences of Wordsworth on Lewis.  The theme of Joy, found in the opening lines of Wordsworth’s poem Surprised by Joy, plays a central role in Lewis’s own conversion and approach to apologetics (argument for the existence of God); hence, the (same) title of Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy (with Wordsworth’s opening line given on the title page).

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Lewis Among Ancients … and Moderns

“The Renaissance never happened!”

C.S. Lewis declared, more than a bit ironically, when accepting the newly created Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Cambridge University in 1954, which he would hold until his death in 1963.  Instead, there is a legacy from the Ancients through the Christian Medievals that was not broken, Lewis claimed, until the age of Jane Austen and the Romantic Poets, around 1800. For instance, art and poetry began to reflect primarily one’s own emotions (subjectivism) rather than the glory of creation.

Consider what scenes or passages from his many writings, including fiction such as The Chronicles of Narnia (ex. knightly valor and courage) or anything else of his you’ve heard or read that might betray Lewis’s very unmodern, cosmic bias.  WE will take a particular look at his Abolition of Man through this journey …

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Boethius: The Consolation of Philosophy – Lewis’s List #7



#7 on C.S. Lewis’s List: The TEN Books that Influenced Him Most , this book by the Roman philosopher Boethius (480-525 A.D.), in which he considers the whims of Lady Fortune after suffering ruin in fortune, society and name (and possibly anticipating his punishment of death) for trumped up charges of treason, Lewis cites as one of the most influential books in medieval literature, as well as one of the ten books that influenced Lewis the most.  The most translated book of the Middle Ages (Alfred the Great, Chaucer and Queen Elizabeth I all did so), Lewis claimed “until about two hundred years ago it would, I think, have been hard to find an educated man in any European country who did not love it.” [1]

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