2000 Catholic Press Association Award Winner
The claim has been made that we are gripped today in an aesthetic crisis" with considerable theological ramifications. Aesthetics, which has existed since the first human heart was moved by the influence of the beautiful, has played a major role, both implicit and explicit, in theological reflection. In The Community of the Beautiful Alejandro Garcia-Rivera draws from the North American philosophical tradition and Hispanic theological thought to propose a new aesthetic principle: a redemptive building of the community of the beautiful.
The Community of the Beautiful focuses on the premise that religion and beauty go together. Yet today hundreds of theological treatises continue to speak solely of the "truth" of their claims. The Community of the Beautiful addresses this silence with a proposal about the relationship between God and the beautiful. It asks the question: How can the finite human creature name the nameless, perceive the imperceptible, make visible the invisible? The answer is what Hans Urs von Balthasar called a theological aesthetics.
The Community of the Beautiful is not simply an analysis of Balthasar's theology; there exists a more personal and concrete reason for a reconsideration of the connection between God and the beautiful. The experience of a particular living ecclesial tradition, the Latin Church of the Americas, may be a guide to a world that lost its confidence in the religious dimensions of the beautiful. Garcia-Rivera recasts the question of theological aesthetics posed above in light of the religious experience of the Latin Church of the Americas so that the question becomes: What moves the human heart?
To answer that question, Garcia-Rivera draws on along-ignored philosophical tradition. The philosophical semiotics of Charles Peirce and Josiah Royce enter into dialogue with the theological aesthetics of Hans Urs von Balthasar to describe the traditional transcendentals, the True and the Good, as communities. The final transcendental, the beautiful, enters into conversation with the semiotic aesthetics of Jan Mukarovsky and the religious experience of the Latin American Church to become the dazzling Vision of the community of the beautiful, God's community.
Chapters are "Pied Beauty," "A Different Beauty," "Seeing the Form," "The Community of the True," "The Community of the Good," "The Community of the Beautiful," and "Lifting up the Lowly."
Alejandro R. Garcia-Rivera, a Roman Catholic lay theologian, received his doctorate in theology from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and holds degrees in physics from Ohio State University and Miami University. The author of numerous articles and winner of a Catholic Press Association award, he is assistant professor of systematic theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.