“In creation God, who is never without his Word, nevertheless utters himself ‘outward’ to that which has being only because God’s address can never be without reply”

Creation’s being is God’s pleasure, creation’s beauty God’s glory; beauty reveals the shining of an uncreated light, a Taboric effulgence, upon all things, a claritas that discloses the lineaments of what it infuses and shows them to be the firm outlines of that weight, that kabod, that proclaims God’s splendor; it is the coincidence of forms upon the surface of being and the infinite depths of divine light of which all form partakes. God thus gives particularity to difference, gives form, radiance, and gravity; all the things that differ are the weight of glory, are glory itself, the bounteousness of God’s goodness standing “outside” itself. Creation thus is without foundations; it attends God, possessing no essence apart from its character as a free and open utterance within the infinity of his self-utterance. In creation God, who is never without his Word, nevertheless utters himself “outward” to that which has being only because God’s address can never be without reply (Isa. 55:11). In the strictest sense theology can use a term like ousia of God alone, and then always as determined, by the perichoretic dynamism of the Trinity, as ousia in transit, so to speak, the perpetual handing over in love of all that the Father is to the Son and Spirit, and the perpetual restoration of this gift. Creation is only a splendor that hangs upon that life of love and knowledge, and only by grace; it is first and foremost a surface, a shining fabric of glory, whose inmost truth is its aesthetic correspondence to the beauty of divine love, as it is eternally expressed by the Trinity: a sacramental order of light. Alexander of Hales claims that the beauty of the divine lies in the order of relation of the three divine persons (Summa theologica I, inq. i, tract. 3, q.3, art. 2, ad 2), and Augustine says the beauty of creation is a proclamation of divine beauty (De civitate Dei 2-4.2), while Hilary speaks of the God who is all beauty and who is reflected in the beauty of his creation (De Trinitate 1.6-7); and this beauty of the Trinity, this orderliness of God’s perichoresis, is the very movement of delight, of the divine persons within one other, and so the analogy that lies between worldly and divine beauty is a kind of analogia delectationis. The delightfulness of created things expresses the delightfulness of God’s infinite distance. For Christian thought, then, delight is the premise of any sound epistemology: it is delight that constitutes creation, and so only delight can comprehend it, see it aright, understand its grammar. Only in loving creation’s beauty—only in seeing that creation truly is beauty—does one apprehend what creation is.

David Bentley Hart

This entry was posted in David B. Hart. Bookmark the permalink.