An early Christian bishop, St. Irenaeus, left a saying dear to many: the glory of God is the human person fully alive.
We are called to be fully alive, and to realize God’s glory in our own being. To be fully alive is a gift rather than an attainment, and means experiencing an integration of body and mind, as well as heart and spirit. Such a synthesis is uniquely human. Angels lack bodies, and animals lack God’s breath or spirit within them.
When fully alive, we reflect how we were created in God’s image and likeness. We have lost likeness with God, yet God’s image remains within us. God seeks to restore us to likeness with him through his redemptive mission, to transform us and all Creation toward our End in him.
We explore varying interests and concerns on our journeys toward wholeness, and holiness. We recognize we are drawn to beauty. We sense what is right and good in our interaction with others. We become aware of our spiritual growth when we discern how truth involves more than analytical knowledge, and requires divine wisdom.
Some people conceive of beauty, goodness and truth as involving a hierarchical journey, where we ascend from beauty through the good toward truth. Thinking in this ‘layered’ way can have a negative consequence ~ leaving beauty behind.
Why? If pursuing the good takes us beyond beauty, and our desire for truth takes us beyond exploring the good, we may wrongly think that wholeness involves forgetting beauty. Mistakenly, we will conclude that growth toward inward beauty is not essential to our wholeness in God. We are then less able to accept genuinely godly art, music or literature.
The events we commemorate liturgically during Holy Week are not an optional overlay on what God has done for us in Creation. The redemptive mission of God, manifest on the Cross and in the Resurrection, makes possible being fully alive. We are restored and transformed through a beautiful self-offering, made by the One through whom all things were made. True human beauty cannot be grasped without a vision of divine glory, revealed fully in the face of Jesus.
[In relation to the above, see Gen. 1:26-8, for how we were created in God’s own image and likeness, and Gen. 2:7, for how, among all creatures, we are uniquely “in-breathed” with God’s breath/spirit (same word in Hebrew). In Christian doctrine, angels are spiritual persons without bodies; we are spiritual persons with bodies; animals are embodied but –however intelligent– are without a “spiritual” nature.]