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Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan

The Beauty of God's House

Essays in Honor of Stratford Caldecott
Edited by Francesca Aran Murphy
Cascade Books
ISBN 978-1-62032-436-3

Publisher's Book Information

For the purposes of this review, I will discuss four of my favourite essays from this book.

In a stimulating essay, Aidan Nichols notes that science is not on the side of the new atheism. There are too many concepts in modern science that violate common sense: the idea that the universe is made up of tiny, vibrating strings, for example. Or that our universe is one of many, none of the others being accessible to scientific experiment.

Nichols also observes that the version of evolution promoted by Dennett and Dawkins, the theory that natural selection unifies all of biology and the history of our planet into a single grand story, was criticized by Darwin himself.

In spite of various projects including the Human Genome Project, we appear to be as far from understanding the brain as we were a century ago.

Nicholas J Healey writes about the cosmic liturgy, a holy exchange of gifts "whereby the entire created order is received as a gift from God and, through the co-working of the Son and the Holy Spirit, offered back to the Father as a renewed gift." The liturgy of the Church is thus an expression and communication of the Trinitarian love.

The Mass makes present the self-sacrificial act that takes place in heaven and on the Cross. The language of transsubstantiation signifies that in the Eucharist Christ communicates nothing less than himself.

Mark Ouellet writes that in order to perceive divine love, we need more than an emotional impulse. We need the gift of the Holy Spirit which incites a person to faith, the faith of the Church. These gifts overflow from the beauty of Christ.

In his first encyclical, Pope Benedict called us to live under the ensign of beauty and to communicate our joy of believing. This is not a mere programme because it is a matter of grace, the grace of holiness.

The theological word for beauty is glory. To perceive the form of glory in the face of Christ is to be so ravished by his splendour that we are taken out of ourselves into the service of Trinitarian love in the Church.

Mary Taylor notes that some ecologists blame Christianity for our current ecological degradation. But, as Caldecott had responded, the "dominion" of Genesis is to do with stewardship, not domination. The opposition between the biocentric and anthropocentric models are a result of enlightenment thinking, not Christianity, Christians desire neither to control nature nor turn nature into a goddess. Caldecott had argued that the Trinity is the key that unlocks the doctrine of creation because we are called to participate in the Trinitarian act of giving and receiving.

Ecological disorder is a reflection of our own interior disorder, our alienation from God.

The aim of these essays is to demonstrate that the beauty of the cosmos reflects the beauty of God. They have succeeded very well in doing so.

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Dr Pravin Thevathasan 2014

The Version of this page: 23rd December 2014

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