…It is genuinely desire, and not some ideally disinterested and dispirited state of contemplation, that beauty both calls for and answers to: though not a coarse, impoverished desire to consume and dispose, but a desire made full at a distance, dwelling alongside what is loved and possessed in the intimacy of disposition… It is pleasingness of the other’s otherness, the goodness that sees God in creation, that wakes desire to what it must affirm and what it must not violate, and shows love the measure of charitable detachment that must temper its elations; it is only in desire that the beautiful is known and its invitation heard. Here Christian thought learns something, perhaps, of how the Trinitarian love of God – and the love God requires of creatures – is eros and agape at once: a desire for the other that delights in the distance of otherness. But desire must also be cultivated; the beautiful does not always immediately commend itself to every taste; Christ’s beauty, like that of Isaiah’s suffering servant, is not expressed in vacuous comeliness or shadowless glamour, but calls for a love that is charitable, that is not dismayed by distance or mystery, and that can repent of its failure to see; this is to acquire what Augustine calls a taste for the beauty of God. Once this taste is learned, divine beauty, as Gregory of Nyssa says, inflames desire, drawing one on into an endless epektasis, a stretching out toward an ever greater embrace of divine glory. And, as Augustine also remarks, it is what one loves – what one desires – that determines to what city one belongs.
From the Introduction to “The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth.” By David Bentley Hart