Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 28, 2002
Stuck between rainbow and the cross
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
Morality is an aspect of a genuine aesthetics, just as aesthetics is an integral part of a genuine morality.
Thus the cross does what a rainbow does, only in a different sphere. A rainbow refracts light, bending it and breaking it down so that we can see, partly, how it is made. The cross does the same thing, it refracts the moral realm, bends it and breaks it down so that too, partly, we can see how it is made up.
In a rainbow, we see beneath the surface and we see the spectacular colours that make up light. In the cross, we also see beneath the surface and see the spectacular love, forgiveness, empathy and selflessness that make up the inside of the moral realm.
We don't often connect these two, the rainbow and the cross. But our Scriptures do and it's something we should do too. The physical beauty of refracted light and the moral beauty of the cross of Jesus reveal different aspects of the same reality, both show us God in living colour. Too often in our practical spirituality we make no connection between the two.
But both speak of the same reality and we are healthier when we see that. There should be no divorce between aesthetics and spirituality, beauty and morality, physical light and the cross. A sunset and Calvary, a rainbow and Gethsemane, the face of a movie star and the morality of Mother Teresa, both reveal aspects of the same reality and bear the signature of the same author. Both bend the light and show us something of the divine. Morality is an aspect of a genuine aesthetics, just as aesthetics is an integral part of a genuine morality. The rainbow and the cross should never be separated.
Tragically though we do separate them. Mostly we live with dualisms: We want to be saints but we disdain beauty; we want to be artists but we disdain morality; we want to be theologians and spiritual directors but we focus on the cross and not on beauty; or we want to be theologians and doctors of the soul but we focus on beauty and not on the cross. Mostly we pick one or the other - the rainbow or the cross. But the beauty of divinity shines through both. God is light and God is love. Too often we take those two affirmations for granted without connecting them.
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