Sunday, February 17, 2008

Entry to Beauty

~from Chiesa
These are signs that the great tradition of Catholic theology continues, in the years of Joseph Ratzinger, theologian and pope.

It is a theology that is as deep and solid as it is quiet and unassuming...

...But there's more. Catholic theology also has to its credit new authors and new books of the first rank.

This is the case of Enrico Maria Radaelli, with his essay "Ingresso alla bellezza [Entryway to beauty]."

The central thesis of "Ingresso alla bellezza" is that the Son of God does not have only one "name," but two. He is "Logos," but also "Imago." He is word, but also image, face, the reflection of the divine thought. He is truth, but also the beauty of the true.

"Ingresso alla bellezza" is therefore a master road for entering into the mystery of the Triune and incarnate God. Beauty is the appearance of the invisible truth. And, vice versa, the inexpressible nature of the divine mysteries is manifested in the splendors of the liturgy, art, music, poetry. On the cover of the book, there is a painting by Lorenzo Lotto with a young Apollo sleeping at the edge of the forest, with the Muses miming the sublime realities.

Radaelli is not an academic theologian, nor has he received holy orders. He is not tenured at any pontifical university. And yet he is the disciple of one of the sharpest Catholic intellects of the 20th century, another ordinary layman without university tenure, Romano Amerio of Switzerland. Both have addressed and address severe criticisms against the secularizing tendencies of the Church in the past century, against confusion in the field of ecumenism and relations with other religions, against the "devastation" in the liturgical field. But this is always in obedience to the hierarchical magisterium and to the Great Tradition without whose depth and breadth – Benedict XVI teaches – there is no Catholic theology worthy of the name.

As for the resemblance between the teaching of pope Joseph Ratzinger and the theses of "Ingresso alla bellezza," it is instructive to consider what the pope said a few days ago, at the February 7 meeting with the clergy of Rome.

Responding to the question from a priest who is also a painter, Benedict XVI said:

"The Old Testament forbade all images, and it had to forbid them in a world that was full of divinities. It lived in a great void that was also represented by the interior of the temple, where, in contrast with other temples, there was no image, but only the empty throne of the Word, the mysterious presence of the invisible God, not circumscribed by our images.

"But then this mysterious God [became flesh in Jesus,] appeared with a face, with a body, with a human history that at the same time is a divine history. It is a history that continues in the history of the saints, of the martyrs, of the saints of charity and of the word, who are always an elaboration, a continuation in the Body of Christ of his divine and human life, and it provides us with the fundamental images in which – beyond the superficial ones that conceal reality – we can widen our vision to the Truth itself. In this sense, the iconoclastic period that followed the Council [Vatican II] seems excessive to me, although this did have its own meaning, because it was perhaps necessary to free ourselves from the superficiality of too many images.

"Now let us return to an understanding of the God who became man. As the letter to the Ephesians tells us, He is the true image. And in this true image we see – beyond the appearances that conceal reality – Truth itself. 'Whoever has seen me has seen the Father'. In this sense, we can rediscover a Christian art, and also rediscover the essential and great representations of the mystery of God in the iconographic tradition of the Church. And thus we can rediscover the true image, [...] the presence of God in the flesh."

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