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The Integrity, Proportion, & Clarity of the Holy Trinity



May 15, 2016
by Fr. George W. Rutler

Manhattan has never seen so many buildings rising at the same time. Cranes tower at dizzying heights. Most new structures are sterile glass boxes, but there are a few eccentric structures designed by celebrity architects, or “starchitects” as they are called, and those aspiring to distinction. They deliberately look like they are about to fall down. These may attract attention, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but that tower was not originally designed to lean.

Drawing on classical norms, Saint Thomas Aquinas proposed that the attributes that make a thing beautiful are Integrity, Proportion, and Clarity. Integrity is the suitability for its function. Proportion is the symmetry by which its parts fit and work together. Clarity is the radiance that gives delight to the eye and is chiefly the ineffable quality that gives delight to the beholder. Not to dramatize or condemn, it is nonetheless the case that an architect who contradicts those norms is mocking the order of creation itself.

Our Lord sent the Holy Spirit to lead his Church into all truth. The Third Person of the Holy Trinity, who is the bond of love between the Father and the Son, unites the Christian (by “adoption” through baptism) with God’s beauty. Christ is the Way (integrity) and the Truth (proportion) and the Life (clarity). His purpose is to show us the Father; his truth is that he and the Father are one, and his clarity is the light of his divinity. Put those three together, and you have perfection.

Our culture is rather like that of Ephesus when Saint Paul went there. Most people know nothing of what Christ has accomplished, and even some who think they are Christians, could say “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:2). Our Lord tasked his followers, and we are the newest of them, to bring others to the beauty of truth. Saint John Paul II said that his favorite line in the Bible was “The truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). It must also be the most hated line of the Prince of Lies. And when he lies, he would persuade people that his deceits are beautiful: he can even appear in attractive form himself, but his enticements are glitz, and in his lack of integrity, proportion and clarity, cooperation with him through sinning makes his minions ugly. God’s grace is the opposite. In the words of a hymn by Samuel Crossman in 1664: “Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be.”

The most beautiful of God’s creatures are the saints, who let the Holy Spirit dwell in them. “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment such as braided hair or gold jewelry or fine clothes, but from the inner disposition of your heart, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4).

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