If the Christian faith is true, that is, if through the tragic event of the cross followed by the act of resurrection and ascension, God’s only Son, Jesus, not only introduces God’s new creation, but through the Holy Spirit re-humanizes humanity, then any idea of the good, the true or the beautiful should be mediated by the One who has changed the course and foundation of history more than any one person or event. God’s dramatic in-breaking revealed in the Bible cannot simply be observed. It requires participation. God invites all of the actors of the world’s stage to participate in the Trinitarian life of God. The elevation of the human to the beauty of its imago Trinitatis is accomplished through the performative expression of God in Christ. Thus, the beauty and profundity of God’s descent to humanity is witnessed in His elevation of the human through the ascension of the Son. As Hans Urs von Balthasar notes, “Christ, God’s greatest work of art, is in the unity of God and man the expression both of God’s absolute divinity and sovereignty and of the perfect creature.”
The life, death and ascension of Christ portray the truth of beauty stemming from tragedy. Beauty must be defined through the faithful performance of Christ—His salvific act. Salvation consists in participation in the being of God through the act of God. This is the beauty that stems from tragedy – the tragedy of the cross. This act of redemption—this event of salvation—is not our struggle, but God’s; and as Karl Barth writes, “it is God that has become man in order as such, but in divine sovereignty, to take up our case.” The once thought of need of struggle for the drama now becomes the beauty of the covenant—the tragedy becoming comedy—made possible through the overcoming of the once recognized paradox of the Creator-creature relationship. This paradox that once overwhelmed history is now the epitome of reconciliation played out in humanity’s performance in Christ through the Spirit.
Beauty is the reconciliation of God and man. It is the fullness of faith found in our participation in Christ’s Being. It (reconciliation) is the re-humanizing of humanity that answers the query: ‘Who am I?’ How is it that the human can attempt to construct an answer to the questions of truth, of goodness and of beauty if she does not even understand who she is? No one can respond to the aforementioned queries without first understanding what it means to ‘know thyself.’ It is the inquiry of who I am that pushes beyond a simple knowledge of what is the human; it is this question—Who am I?—that stands before each and every one of us.
Humanity comes to “know thyself” through our participation in Christ’s salvific performance. Participation in reconciliation exposes us not only to personhood, but to that which is beauty. As we participate in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation, we live out the hope of tomorrow, today. This invitation to share in His hope of tomorrow in the here and now moves the tragic into the comedy, for the cross, which rests at the centre of the stage, and is the fullness of God’s action, represents the “epitome of human cruelty and ugliness” whilst ultimately being the ‘manifestation of God’s beauty—a beauty that we cannot posses but only suffer, as through such beauty, humanity is “unselfed, thus formed, making possible our reception of charity, the form of all the virtues.” Love is the action of the Spirit by which He takes humanity into the fullness of life through the outpouring of divine love.
Humanity cannot attain the beautiful life through its individual, autonomous and disconnected performance; pure and unified beauty is absent from humanity, apart from the performance of Christ. Through our own acts and outpourings of divine love, this is through our participation in and with Christ, we come to witness and realize the profundity of that which is beautiful.