Perhaps it was Rod Dreher's typically modest comment
In my case, it was perfectly obvious from the beginning why one would want to be Orthodox. But I know myself well enough to admit that I’m a rare type, in that I am unusually moved by beauty. (Recall, it was seeing the Chartres cathedral for the first time at age 17 that brought me back to Christianity.) Beauty alone isn’t enough, but in my particular case, it is so central to my experience of God that I can scarcely do without it. This has been a blessing to me, because it has made me deeply grateful for the role of beauty in holiness, but also a burden, as far too often I am aware of certain disdainful impulses towards low-church worship, a spirit of criticism that is spiritually harmful. (Believe me, it was very much there when I was a Catholic too).
in a post contrasting the beauty in Orthodoxy with the beauty in Catholicism that first got me thinking of this, but it was Dreher's God and Architecture that propelled me to follow through.
Dreher, and, of course, an entire tradition make much of the relationship between Beauty (canonized in capitals) and the Divine, so let's break this down and see how well it holds up under scrutiny.
The common element across all of these pronouncements of beauty is regularity, in space and across time. Forms - including human forms - that are proportional, often symmetrical, as well as entities - the whole concept of architecture itself - that endure in space and across time.
Beauty is conceived in superior contrast to things that don't do this: in contrast to the child with only one pop eye and a seal flipper for a left arm, in contrast to the ramshackle, disposable nest a chimp makes for the night.
But it turns out these elements of Beauty - regularity, proportionality, endurance across time (Platonism) - are in fact at heart human celebrations of itself, of our ability to impose our wills on the vagaries of nature: to build enduring things that function and last, homes that stand, mills that work, etc. We then in turn, perhaps even simultaneously, apply these values to the natural world as well, to its regularities, its proportionalities, and symmetries, none more so than to others of our species. Ever wonder why there are so few truly ugly human beings in the world? Yes, that's right: no dates. Selected against, out, and adios forever.
Consider though, in contrast, an example touched only by the Divine, say, a random mud flat along the Bay of Bengal, at high noon and low tide. Random, irregular, unenduring, soupy, muddy, strewn with flotsam and detritus, redolent with thousands of simultaneous different processes of animal and vegetable dismemberment and decay - all of this owes its existence to only one Author. And, naturally, it would be abhorred by the Beauty-worshiping Drehers of the world.
But why? The only Hand at work there is God's.
So if you want to celebrate Beauty as your aesthetic, sensate avatar of the Divine, sure, go right ahead, but realize, as the Drehers of the world will congenitally never be able to, that what you are celebrating is your view into a mirror, one you have previously constructed long ago to celebrate yourself and your achievements as a human being. Outside and beyond that mirror the purest realms of the solely Divine - the Bengali mud flat, the alien solar system dissolved in radioactive fury - look wholly different.
And meanwhile, the limbless, anacephalic stillborn child some thoughtless vandal dumps in the night on the steps of majestic, soaring Chartres, like so much garbage: whom does she inspire, and to what?