Fragments of Light

The Splendor of the Whole, Part 2

Diptych, detail, Susan Kanaga. From the exhibit "Frammenti" ("Fragments") currently on display at the Community of Jesus, Orleans, MA.
Diptych, detail, Susan Kanaga. From the exhibit “Frammenti” (“Fragments”) currently on display at the Community of Jesus, Orleans, MA.

The Whole dwells in the fragment, the infinite erupts into the finite: the Crucified God is the form and splendor of eternity in time. On the cross, the Verbum abbreviatum—the self-emptying of the eternal Word—reveals beauty as tiny infinity. — Bruno Forte, The Portal of Beauty: Towards a Theology of Aesthetics

Exploring the relationship between God and beauty, between the Splendor of the Whole and the beauty visible in a fragment, Archbishop Forte examines Augustine’s thought and quotes the following analogy in which the beauty of creation points the soul back to God. From Augustine’s Confessions: “What am I loving when I love you? Not bodily beauty nor the gracefulness of age; nor light’s brightness, so dear to these eyes of mine; not the sweet melodies of song, nor the fragrance of flowers, of perfumes, of aromas; not manna, nor honey; not the body so dear to the embraces of the flesh: no, these are not the things I love when I love my God. And yet in a certain sense I do love light and sound, smell and food and embrace, when I love my God, the light, sound, smell, food, and embrace of my inner being. There, a light shines for my soul untrammeled by space; there, I hear a sound that does not disappear into time; there, I smell a perfume that the wind does not carry off; there, I savor things that no gluttony makes sickly; there, I experience an embrace never to be broken by surfeit. All this I love when I love my God. So then I asked the earth, ‘What is all this?’ and it replied: ‘It is not me.’ And all the things on earth gave me the same answer. I quizzed the sea and its depths, the living things that move there, and they replied: ‘We are not your God, seek higher.’ . . . And then I said to all those things seated before the door of my senses, ‘If it is not you, tell me something about my God, speak to me of him.’ And with a mighty voice all cried: ‘He is our creator.’ I looked at the creatures, and asked; their beauty was their answer.”

Comments welcome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *