Divine Beauty: Experiencing God through sight and sound

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Kelb, Sarah D.
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University of the South , School of Theology thesis 2014 , School of Theology, University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee , Divine beauty , Beauty of nature , Incarnational beauty , Theological aesthetics , Transformation , Attitude toward God
The purpose of this thesis is to examine divine beauty as experienced through the senses, in particularly the senses associated with sight and sound. Since Western Christian Spirituality emerged out of Eastern Christian Spirituality, this thesis will examine both traditions. This, in turn, will include specific examples of Easter music and art as well as Western music and art. It is important to point out that Divine Beauty, first and foremost, is found in all aspects of creation and nature. It’s difficult to imagine experiencing the beauty of nature without at least pondering it originating, in some way, from a divine being. That being said, this thesis closely focuses on the incarnational beauty as manifested by the creativity of human endeavors. This thesis will also offer a working definition of theological aesthetics and the reemergence of the mystical components that go along with theological aesthetics in the more recent decades. The purpose of this endeavor is to encourage the reader of this thesis to delve deeper into a more sensual and spiritual experience of God. To put it another way, this endeavor is meant to encourage the reader to gain a deeper desire for “heart, body, and soul knowledge” of God. This kind of knowledge may be difficult to experience in any other way outside of one’s senses. This deepening of “heart knowledge” of God can lead a person to experience, transcendence and/or transfiguration, which will also be outlined within this thesis. This change of being will, in turn, cause transformation. It is also important to point out that this thesis meant to, hopefully, cause the reader to desire the transformation that springs out of experiencing divine beauty. This kind of transformation may result in a person being so enraptured by God that their attitude towards God, God’s beloved, and all of God’s creation, may be changed to desire that person to love more deeply. This in turn, will result in positive action that pours out from a deep love of God. In other words, a person’s moral being is altered through being transformed from experiencing divine beauty. The concluding chapters of this thesis focus on sacrament, worship, and application, all of which are meant to show examples of how to mediate the experience of divine beauty. The two primary examples that are described are the Eucharist and Taizé style of worship. Both of these engage the senses in profound ways and when one is open to it, can cause one to experience transformation. Finally, this thesis includes two appendixes of specific images examined within this theses as well as the text of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers in hopes that the reader will desire experiencing these beautiful pieces of art that are divinely inspiring. With these specific examples along with the rest of this thesis, it is also the hope that those who are engaged in ministry, in some way, will find ways of creating a sacred space that engages the senses. Again, this will, in turn create the space to move deeper into experiencing divine beauty.