The Beauty of Truth

St Dominic’s love of truth was ultimately love of a Person, Jesus Christ our Lord. That is the sticking point for many who would otherwise be quite happy to talk about the importance of the good, the true and the beautiful in their lives. (As an aside, when I was doing intellectual history under Christopher Morris, one of his frequent moans was that people plucked ideas from Plato without actually reading him. Not guilty, m’ Lud.) It is also a sticking point for those more Aristotelian types who are interested in virtue ethics. How can something as abstract as truth be personal? How can it be loved?

My own answer would run along the lines of saying that ultimate reality is to be found outside the universe rather than within its structure and function. Since that is not accessible to reason by and of itself, we must allow for the transcendent. However, in the person of Jesus that which is transcendent has become accessible to us as revelation. In him we see and hear and touch ‘the love that moves the sun and lesser stars’. For God is love. The question then is not so much whether Truth is a Person, but whether Truth is lovable as we understand loving. (I have compressed the argument of what would be a long book into a short paragraph, so do not be surprised at the leaps I take.)

How can we love Truth? St Thomas Aquinas has some fine things to say on this subject, but I think we can put things very simply by acknowledging that Christ is so vast, measureless in fact, that we can experience but never explain him. We can know his love without being able to explain it. The image of God is stamped on all creation. There is a truth in all things if we are ready to seek it, and it is infinitely lovable.

On this feast of St Dominic, when we pray for Dominicans the world over, I think we can make our own a sentence of St Thomas which expresses the hope of every Christian scholar: ‘Lord, in my zeal for the love of truth, let me not forget the truth about love.’ There is mystery in those words, and deep humility, as there is in all love.

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