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Beauty, Goodness, and Truth

“The “Good” is a term that ultimately applies to God. God is good and the source of all goodness. Indeed, goodness has a place in the “philosophical trinity.” That trinity is truth, goodness, and beauty. These are the three properties of being. God alone has true being. Everything that exists does so because God gives it being. Creation thus has relative being. The purpose (telos) of all created things is to move from relative being towards greater likeness and union with God in the truth of His being. In theological terms, we speak of this as “eternal life.” (Father Stephen Freeman)


“Beauty is an all-encompassing term that is nearly synonymous with “truth” and “goodness.” “Beauty is truth / truth beauty. / That is all ye know on earth / and all ye need to know” (Keats). The Greek adjective kalos can be rendered both “good” and “beautiful.” The primary text of Orthodox spirituality is accordingly called The Philokalia, a title that translates as “love of beauty,” implying as well “love of the Good.” That Good is God himself, together with his purpose for all that he has brought into being. Imbued with the spirit of the Philokalia, nineteenth century Russian philosophers could affirm: “Beauty will save the world.” (Fr. John Breck)


“The Russian novelist Dostoevsky [+1881] famously and somewhat enigmatically once said, “Beauty will save the world.” Yet, Dostoevsky also realized that in a world filled with sin, beauty can evoke responses that fall short of any saving value. In fact, beauty can even degenerate toward sin and sensuality, as one of Dostoevsky’s greatest creations, Dmitri Karamazov, acknowledged with great anguish. Therefore, for Dostoevsky beauty itself had to be “saved” and linked to Truth and Goodness. Thus, for the Russian novelist, beauty is not simply an aesthetic concept, but one that must have a moral, ethical and spiritual dimension for it to be rightly perceived and experienced. And for Dostoevsky—as well as for not only great artists, but for the great minds of the Church—beauty is not an abstract concept or Idea. Beauty is a Person, and this Person is Christ. In Christ, Truth, Goodness and Beauty are harmoniously united. This is why Dostoevesky also spoke of the “radiant image of Christ.” (Fr. Stephen Kostoff)


“We believe in a God who is fundamentally beautiful, and the worship of Him must reflect that beauty on every level of the liturgical experience. I am not speaking here merely of beauty as a subjective quality based on aesthetic taste, though that’s important as well, but beauty in an ontological sense; beauty as goodness, beauty as truth, beauty as the underlying purpose of existence…It’s not enough to have artists who seek after beauty, truth, and goodness; we must have churches, policies, and communities that promote a long-term nurture of culture that is beautiful, truthful, and full of goodness.” (Harrison Russin, Benedict Sheehan, Makoto Fujimura)


“The Christian understanding of right and wrong should never be grounded in such shifting sands. The classical Christian “trinity” of transcendantals runs: beauty, goodness, and truth. The insistence of the Fathers is that these things are realities and not simply subjective judgments. Beauty, for example, is not “in the mind of the beholder.” By the same token, goodness if not a relative matter. It does not describe what is “good for me.” And truth is a matter of what truly is. Truth is a description of reality, not simply someone’s professed perception of reality. There is no such thing as “my truth.” (Father Stephen Freeman)


#FatherStephenFreeman #FrJohnBreck #FrStephenKostoff #HarrisonRussin #BenedictSheehan #MakotoFujimura


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