As we search for truth, goodness, and beauty, God does not elude us. He leaves a trail of hints that lead to him if we are interested enough to seek him. He does this because he knows we love to explore and discover.
This is the second post in a series on the Five Pillars of the USCCB's Eucharistic Revival. For the first post click here.
Plato, Aristotle, and Thomas Aquinas taught that God is truth, goodness and beauty. To seek what is true, what is good, or what is beautiful is to search for God.
The truth is: Life is a game and God is the game designer. Francis Thompson, in his poem Hound of Heaven says he fled him . . . He fled God, that is, the Hound that chased him. Evidently, that’s how the game is played. We run after him, he runs after us–like hide and seek–and whether we admit it or not, we are often thrilled by the suspense of hiding and then seeking. We hide from God in some place we think he won’t find us (of course, he plays along). He finds us, and we’re startled when he does. Then he goes and hides, but only just enough to make it a little bit of a challenge for us, to keep the game interesting. Fools that we are, we pass right by him again and again not noticing he is so close to us.
He made us like himself. He is thrilled by the search. He knows us better than we know ourselves, but in his love for us–I would say–he is still moved by the adventure of playing the game with us. Truth, goodness, and beauty are the indicators that we found him. Since God is truth, he already knows everything there is to know about us. His enjoyment comes from us searching and learning about ourselves. Through Christ’s teaching, through worship, and through charity we discover the hints God gave us to help us find him. Even in learning more about ourselves, we learn more about him because he is our Maker. as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man . . . their truth, their goodness, their beauty all reflect the infinite perfection of God” (CCC 41).
This teaching alludes to the Book of Wisdom, which says:
“For from the greatness and beauty of created things
comes a corresponding perception of their Creator” (Wisdom 13:5).
In the Second Pillar of the USCCB Eucharistic Revival, the U.S. Bishops highlight the importance of this search–the search for truth, goodness, and beauty, that is. The Second Pillar of the Revival is:
Contemplate and proclaim the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist through the Truth of our teaching, Beauty of our worship, and Goodness of our accompaniment of persons in poverty and those who are vulnerable.
Truth of our Teaching
Jesus said “I am the Truth”, meaning the truth is a person. When we know this person, we recognize his voice. “My sheep know me and hear my voice,” Jesus said. When we seek the truth, we start to recognize it better and we start to gain the ability to distinguish it from its counterfeits. When we know the truth’s voice, upon hearing something that sounds off, or false, or wrong, we can decide for ourselves and say, “I know the truth, and he wouldn’t say something like that.” Learning about God is just like learning about the truth: We learn what is true through a process of elimination. As Sherlock Holmes would say, “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
St. Thomas Aquinas would agree, and go further to say that the truth which you find is God. Or, in his words, “concerning God, we cannot grasp what he is, but only what he is not, and how other beings stand in relation to him."
But I am contradicting myself, you might be thinking. First I say that we can know the truth and therefore can know God since he is the truth. Then I quote Aquinas who says we cannot grasp who he is. This leads to the exact point the U.S. bishops aim to make in this Second Pillar. We cannot know God the Father except through Christ the Son. Aquinas was clever enough to make this distinction. The Council of Chalcedon made it clear that we need to be careful not to confuse Jesus’ two natures. Jesus is not the Father, but Jesus is God. Don’t try to wrap your head around it. We weren’t made to do that. We were, however, given the Eucharist. Could God have given us a better substance for our sojourn here on earth? Aquinas speaks of oneness being among the transcendentals along with truth, goodness, and beauty. What better way to become one with God than by consuming him? If we are to consume him, what better way than to do so as he is in the form of bread–the food that is the most staple sustenance in our daily diet?
Should he have given himself to us in a way other than food? Sin came into the world by Adam and Eve eating something, the Forbidden Fruit. God reversed the curse by giving us heavenly food.
St. Peter Julian Eymard said,
“Have a great love for Jesus in his divine Sacrament of Love; that is the divine oasis of the desert. It is the heavenly manna of the traveler. It is the Holy Ark. It is the life and Paradise of love on earth.” (To the Children of Mary, November 21, 1851)
So we can confidently proclaim the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist through the truth of our teaching because the Eucharist is Christ, Christ is the Truth, and that is what the Church teaches. More than simply being true, the Eucharist is the most perfect embodiment of truth because it is Truth himself.
Beauty of Our Worship
Beauty is also a person. This is why we ought to build beautiful churches and worship at beautiful Masses with beautiful music, beautiful prayers, and beautiful homilies. Truth and beauty are interchangeable. Where there is beauty there is Truth; where there is Truth there is beauty. If something is not true, it will not ring with beauty in our ears. If something is not beautiful it will not ring true.
We know this because when we hear a beautiful piece of music, we recognize some truth in it that transcends words. The way beauty leaves us speechless is not proof of its incohesion, but proof of its otherworldly profundity and truth. And this is why our worship ought to be beautiful, because through beauty the heavenly truths that transcend this world can descend to us.
Goodness of our accompaniment
“Whatever you have done to these the least of my brethren you have done unto me” (Matthew 25)
When I notice some selfless good that someone has done, the tug I feel on my heart is similar to what I feel when I hear a beautiful song or recognize some profound truth. All of these experiences are small encounters with God. I can also personally testify that this feeling has never been more potent than when I receive the Eucharist. I do not experience the same potency every time, but no experience reaches my heart more often than receiving the Eucharist has reached it. This is because God created our hearts, so he knows exactly how to reach it best.
Receiving the Eucharist reaches my heart because I recognize his loving sacrifice when I receive. Jesus accompanies us in the Eucharist. The goodness in our accompaniment with others begins with Christ's accompaniment with us in the Eucharist. Our goodness is the overflow of the love and goodness we receive when we consume the Blessed Sacrament and make goodness one with
Through truthful teaching, worship, and good deeds, Catholics proclaim the doctrine of the Real Presence, which is the source from which all of these things come. I commend the U.S. Bishops’ attempt to teach these profound truths in a unique way. Hopefully the Eucharistic Revival succeeds in showing Catholics that the Real Presence is not just another Church teaching. It is the very embodiment of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty–and therefore it is what the Church teaches.
This article is sponsored by the Knights of the Holy Eucharist, an order of Franciscan brothers in Lincoln, Nebraska. Learn more at knights.org.