I’ve been re-reading Love Alone Is Credible, something I do somewhat regularly. It’s a short monograph about the Church’s perennial struggle to make the Gospel make sense. Von Balthasaar makes a great observation about the connection between what we love and what we find beautiful, which sets the stage for his understanding of revelation:
Already in the realm, of nature, eros is the chosen place of beauty: whatever we love—no matter how profoundly or superficially we may love it—always appears radiant with glory; and whatever is objectively perceived as glorious—no matter how profoundly or superficially we experience it—does not penetrate into the onlooker except through the specificity of an eros. Both reciprocally related poles are transcended in the realm of revelation, wherein God’s kenotically condescending Logos expresses himself as Love, Agape, and thus as Glory.
“What is man that you are mindful of him?” asks the Psalmist. A little lower than the angels yet formed from the dust of the ground. So different than our mammalian counterparts, and yet perhaps so much more similar. Perhaps on one level the similarities seem to outweigh the differences, especially when we consider evolutionary biology and psychology. Yet what seems to make us different makes all the difference. Max Scheler argues that we are “spiritual beings” in some ways free from instincts, or at least free to regulate them in the interest of transcendent experiences, exercising a kind of “voluntary inhibition”.
In The Logic of the Spirit, James Loder contends a vital mark of the human spirit is our relation to death:
We will not let death have the last word. This is a mark of the human spirit that something in us knows we can overcome this thing. Death stops the heartbeat but does not quench the human spirit; its inherent logic tells us that there is a way to transcend and transform death, whether in suicide or in baptism, it is in hope of a better life. Even in the pathetic cry of the abused child, “If I die, then will you love me?” there is transcendence that wants to make use of death to achieve another higher end. “What is a lifetime, and why do I live it?” this cry arises out of the human spirit, sometimes in anguish, sometimes in awe-struck silence, but always a call to someone or some place beyond the self.