When we are profoundly affected by the beauty of purity...
... or when we speak of the beauty acquired by a soul through humility, we are concentrating on a radiance of the inner quality of these virtues. It is a beauty which Saint Augustine calls splendor veri [true splendor]. The liturgy leaves no doubt in our minds as to the role due to this beauty in the light of revelation. Again and again it is spoken of in a great variety of phrases: Listen, daughter, and see, and incline your ear, for the king has greatly desired your beauty. Give ear with your countenance and your beauty. Beautiful in countenance and more beautiful in faith.
This beauty has a conspicuous function in the life of a Christian, for this beauty is the foundation of love. The divine beauty of Jesus, the beauty of the Saint of all saints, inflames our heart. It shone resplendent on the Apostles on Tabor; the beauty of his divine mercy melted the heart of Mary Magdalen. The irresistible divine beauty of Jesus not only moves our will, but it attracts our heart. As Saint Augustine says, "We are attracted not only by the will but also by affection." The great Lacordaire says that virtues become irresistibly victorious and constrain us to love only when, as in every saint, they are manifested in their beauty, when their inner nobility is revealed in their beauty. In its dignity, this beauty, which is a reflection of the inner excellence and dignity of one who exists, is dependent on the dignity of its object. The beauty of a rich, profound mind like that of a Plato or an Aristotle is greater than the beauty of Achilles…and the beauty of humility or love is greater than that of an eminent and profound intellect. [Beauty] is so much a part of redemption that redemption is also a restoration of the original paradisaical beauty, of an even much greater beauty, as the liturgy maintains, "who has wonderfully created human dignity and more wonderfully restored it" — and as a mystic says: "We would die of love if we could see the beauty of a soul in the state of grace."
Dietrich von Hildebrand. "The Beauty of Holiness." from Beauty in the Light of the Redemption (Steubenville, OH: Hildebrand Project, 2019).
Reprinted with permission of the Hildebrand Project.
Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889-1977) was a German philosopher known for his seminal works in ethics, aesthetics, social philosophy, and philosophy of religion. He was one of Europe’s most outspoken voices against Nazism and Communism. Pope John Paul II greatly admired the work of Hildebrand as did Pope Pius XII and Pope Benedict XVI. He is the author of many books, including Transformation In Christ, In Defense of Purity, Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love, Liturgy and Personality, My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich, The Nature of Love, Humility: Wellspring of Virtue, and The Dietrich von Hildebrand LifeGuide.
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