Friday, July 20, 2007

Authentic Beauty (Beauty continued - pt2)

In the ugliness of Calvary, God showed us his redemptive power, his unconditional love for his children and his everlasting splendor. He took something horrible and made us understand the sheer, almost blinding, beauty of his love for us.

This saving beauty is visible and felt. It is in the image of Jesus on the cross, in Christ's presence in the Eucharist, and in sacred art and music.
BUT! Beauty is also present in the natural world God created, like in a moonlit night, a sunrise, a field or the smile of a child. (I am paraphrasing U.S. Bishop William B. Friend of Shreveport, Louisiana here!)

At our last reading group meeting a man shared his conversion story with us. This gentleman is a scientist who was raised in a Jewish family - he was a third generation atheist. His conversion began with a blade of prairie grass. Yes, you read that correctly! He told us that it was in a moment of pure appreciation of the sheer beauty of that piece of prairie grass -- that it hit him. "This is a work of art. Some greater being created this." That was the true and almost tangible beginning of his journey to finding God and the the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church.

Talk about beauty as persuasive proof of God’s existence!

Dostoevsky said " God will save the world through beauty." I concur and I believe that God reaches out to us in beauty. . . beauty is a strong communication tool. Beauty is an impetus all its own. It is why I danced and continue to teach dance. It is why my husband sings, why our daughter plays so many instruments and why our son dances.

Christian beauty is also manifest in people who live a life of holiness.
Slovenian Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik said people infused with love for the other become beautiful. It is not enough to offer kind words and do good deeds; "only spiritual people" bathed in the grace of the Holy Spirit emanate beauty, he said.
I love that wording. INFUSED with love for the other.
Cardinal Ivan Dias of Mumbai, India, said the lives of the saints can be inspirational even for people of other religious faiths or no faith at all. This is compelling. It reminds us to share the lives of saints with other people, with our children, with our spouse. . . let their depth of Christian beauty help to turn hearts to God. Sometimes we should forget apologetics lest it become a debate.
Most holy people do not often embody modern notions of beauty. For example: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, was poor and Pope John Paul II, was ailing and practically voiceless, and yet they still attracted people of all beliefs to listen to their message, Cardinal Ivan Dias points out.

People living a holy life might also be the object of ridicule, persecution or other hardships, making them unpopular and hardly attractive to most people, he said.
But the beauty of Christian holiness is like looking at a cocoon, he said. "Some despise the worm there as ugly, while others see in it a beautiful butterfly in the making."

A world that has become indifferent and jaded by so much flash, glitz and dazzle needs authentic beauty, participants said, and it's the church's mission to point out that "via pulchritudinis." ( <--- beautiful life)

Father Rupnik said beauty is what links humanity to God and the divine. Take away the saints and angelic cherubim, and people are "left with only the animals," or worse, are alone.
I would add, "Take away fine art and we are left berift of an important way of praising God and expressing our love of God."

Quoting Pope Paul VI in his Dec. 8, 1965, letter to artists, Cardinal Poupard said the world "needs beauty in order to not sink into despair. It is beauty, like truth, which brings joy" to the human heart, and "resists the wear and tear of time." To be continued soon in a post called, "The Iconicity and Beauty of Language"

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