Natural beauty is real but fragile. This is why the personalized beauty of a saint is at the summit of being. The saint, as “microcosm” and “microtheos” thus becomes nature’s center, but grounded in a person. Nature trembles and waits to be saved by man become holy.
( . . . )
As a novelist, [Dostoevsky] experienced an insurmountable difficulty in trying to describe an eminently good person. He wondered what this ideal man could possibly do in life: be a justice of the peace, a social reformer? He had to give up his quest and borrow his good person from the lives of the great spiritual saints. This is why his saints do not participate in the external activity of events. If they do participate in them, however, it is in a totally different manner. Dostoevsky drew the face of a saint and put it on the far wall as a sort of icon. In the revealing and therapeutic light of this image, we can penetrate the meaning of the events that take place on the world’s stage.
In the light of activist philosophy, it is certainly true that a saint is absolutely “useless”, as Beauty and its icons are useless, God is useless, ( . . . ) All these have no place, are useless, in the fictions and dreams of this world, and yet God saves and a saint enlightens and explains! No sociological structure has a place for a being whose entire existence is exclusively defined as a theophany. And yet, this theophany is the only really “serious” thing in the world for it puts an end to absurdity and stamps the heart of this world with the sign of another dimension and age.
—Paul Evdokimov, The Art of the Icon, A Theology of Beauty
If the heart of this world is “stamped with the sign of another dimension and age,” it seems that this earth-shaking reality is not commonly acknowledged. But perhaps when we discover a great secret waiting to be shouted from the housetops, we must, like Dostoevsky, sketch it on the far wall lest we break a fragile beauty.