In this short review, Dr. David Ford writes that “The Ethics of Beauty” by Dr. Timothy Patitsas “…has already brought for many people life-changing healing and personal reconciliation with God and with others.” Patitsis covers a wide range of topics to show how Dostoevsky’s dictum “Beauty will save the world” has practical application in our contemporary world.
The Beauty of Ethics
Dr. Timothy Patitsas
(Maysville, MO: St. Nicholas Press, 2020)
By Dr. David Ford
Many thanks to Dr. Timothy Patitsas for the tremendous gift of this amazing book. In this very broad-ranging, magisterial work, Dr. Timothy, who teaches Ethics at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary in Brookline, Mass., offers powerful insights in many areas of human experience and endeavor—insights which are based thoroughly in our Orthodox Tradition, yet articulated in profoundly deep and nuanced ways. He especially addresses healing from trauma (particularly PTSD as experienced by veterans of war), a theology of ethics in general, the eros of chastity, the pitfalls of much of contemporary psychotherapy, the mystery and reconciliation of male and female, how architecture and art in general can be either dead or alive, the need in the political sphere for the Right and the Left to be “wedded” and suffused with divine grace, contemporary challenges of urban planning, and culminating in a brilliant, “gentle” reconciliation of science and religion. Along the way, he has wise words about Darwinism, Environmentalism, in vitro fertilization, a city as liturgy, and even investing in the stock market!
Throughout it all, Dr. Timothy urges us all to seek Beauty first — to gaze upon and fall in love with Christ Who is Beauty Incarnate. For He is the only One Who can truly heal us at the deepest levels of our being, putting back the pieces of all of our inner brokenness, and reconciling us with all those around us — even those who have hurt us the most traumatically. As he says,
Well, I know now that you can’t effectively fight any of the passions head on; rather, we must cut them off at their source, which is self-love, by falling in love with Christ. You begin with chaste devotion to Him (p. 71).
For me, the most intriguing and personally helpful chapter is the one on the mystery of male and female. The chapter is entitled “Only Priests Can Marry: The Reconciliation of Men and Women in Christ.” The emphasis here is on the profound calling of every one of us to be priests, in the sense of being summoned to continually offer back to our Creator, in self-sacrificial ways, all the gifts He’s constantly pouring upon us. Very interestingly, Dr. Timothy suggests that men are called to do this in a kingly way, while women are called to do this in a prophetic way, thus reflecting and encompassing together the three seminal functions of Christ Himself as King, Priest, and Prophet. His further insights in the realm of gender issues are also rich and profound, too deep and nuanced to be briefly summarized.
Related to how the sexes are to relate to each other, Dr. Timothy’s observations in another chapter about the need for a restoration of a sense of healthy “shame” also, I think, can be personally life-changing. For he explains how this life-giving sense helps us to relate to our Lord with healthy eros, which leads to our growing in agape for our fellow man.
This is truly a book everyone should read! As other reviewers have noted, it has already brought for many people life-changing healing and personal reconciliation with God and with others.
About the Author
David C. Ford, Ph.D., is Professor of Church History at St. Tikhons Orthodox Seminary.
He has published six books: Marriage as a Path to Holiness: Lives of Married Saints, Women and Men in the Early Church: The Vision of Saint John Chrysostom, Wisdom for Today from the Early Church, Saint Tikhon of Moscow: Instructions and Teachings for the American Orthodox Faithful (1898 - 1907), Church History in the revised catechetical series entitled The Orthodox Faith, Saint John Chrysostom's Letters to Saint Olympia, and the booklet Prayer and the Departed Saints.