Love, Beauty, and the Superior Life

Our epistle reading from last Sunday was one of my favorites because as a pentecostal holiness kinda guy (whenb I first became a Christian) I really did have a hard time with some of the restrictions placed upon me. Such as the strange notion that “stuff” had to be explicitly Christian in order to be enjoyed (e.g. movies, music, coffeemakers…ok, well maybe not coffeemakers…but then again WHY NOT! Why support heathen coffeemaker manufacturers!!!!)

Movies. I love movies. And while I will occassionally delve into the realm of stupidity in regards to films, generally I want a movie that will inspire me in someway…even subtle ways. One of my abosulte favorite films is the Rob Reiner film “Parenthood” in which we (and a disheartened “Gil”: Steve Martin) are reminded by the hilarious and somewhat senile grandmother that the parenting life is both frightening and joyous: exhilirating – like a rollercoaster ride and therefore far more preferable to the predictability of the merry-go-round. What a joy that film is! Or the scene in “The Mission” when Robert DeNiro’s slave trading character experiences redemption at the hands of those native peoples whose family he’d sold into slavery – glorious!

And it has always seemed to me that if we look around us, whether it be towards art (movies, music, pictures, etc) or just everyday rollercoasting family life we can find examples of what St. Paul was exhorting the Phillipian Church about:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.

Furthermore, today St. Macrina the younger via St. Gregory of Nyssa says in regards to the purification of the soul:

…the soul becomes godlike when it has put off all the varied impulses of its nature, and when it has passed beyond desire it has entered into that towards which it was previosuly being raised by desire, it no longer gives any place in itself either to hope or to memory. It has what it was hoping for, and it drives out memory from its mind in its occupation with the enjoyment of good things. Thus it imitates the superior life, being conformed to the properties of the divine nature, so that nothing else is left to it but the disposition of love, as it becomes attached in its nature to the beautiful…

For the Life of the superior nature is love, since the beautiful is in every respect lovable for those who know it, and the Divine knows Itself. But knowledge becomes love, because that which is known is beautiful by nature. Insolent satiety does not touch the truly beautiful. Since satiety does not cut off the attachment of love to the beautiful, the divine life will always operate through love, the divine life which is beautiful by nature and from its nature is lovingly disposed towards the beautiful. There is no limit to the operation of love, since the beautiful has no limit, so that love might cease with the limit of the beautiful. The beautiful is limited only by its opposite. But whatever by its nature cannot admit anything worse will proceed towards the limitless and unbounded good.


Very, very nice, James!

Anonymous said…
James....holiness Pentecostal...I learn something new everyday. It appears we come from the same root system. I'm grateful for my history but am so glad it's my history. Great post by the way.
jp said…
What's the source of that quote from Macrina the younger? She is my wife's patron, and honestly when I read this it sounded like my wife talking to me...wierd...but wonderful. Thanks!
fdj said…
Hey Bill...

It is actually from St. Gregory of Nyssa's work "On the Soul and Resurrection"

The whole book is essentially a long dialogue between St. Gregory and his sister St. Macrina. I don't think we'll ever know if St. Macrina actually said these things or if St. Gregory put the words in her mouth for his book, following a platonic style of writing.

No doubt though, St. Macrina was a big influence on her brothers and St. Gregory certainly had a great deal of respect for her.

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