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Sep 01, 2020 129 0 Sr. M. Louise O’Rourke
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You Are Beautiful!

Is beauty all about what pleases the eyes of the beholder? What makes a person beautiful?

From Wildflower to Artistic Painting

Pope Francis says in his encyclical, Evangelium Gaudii (The Joy of the Gospel): “Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendour and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties. Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus.” (EG 129)

In recent years, there has been a rediscovery of beauty as a way to truth and goodness. Theologians call this the ‘via pulchritudinis’ or the ‘way of beauty’. It is a via, meaning a path towards something, and that something is God wherein our happiness too is found.

Is beauty only what pleases or teases the eye of the beholder as the cliché runs? Or does a more universal beauty exist that can attract people of all ages and cultures? What makes a person beautiful? It seems we are all drawn to beauty in some way, but not everyone is moved by it to contemplate and acknowledge God as the source of this beauty.

We can cultivate gratitude within our hearts for the gift of beauty and beautiful things. Something as simple as a wildflower or as extravagant as magnificent art and architecture may raise our eyes to the Divine. Beauty always comes to us as a gift which encourages us to foster attitudes of humility, gratitude, and selflessness within. When we notice something beautiful, we recognize that the beauty comes from outside of ourselves – we did not create the beauty. Beauty is not about bling. It is not about what is the most colourful, the most expensive, the most professional, the loudest. It is about keeping it simple so that everyone has access to its message.

Reshape and Awaken

Venerable Canon Francesco Chiesa, an Italian priest and spiritual director of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, had a phrase: “Beauty is a bridge by which we come to know God.” Indeed, the beauty of God is what draws us to God. Paradoxically this includes the mystery and glory of Christ on The Cross—the utter distortion of divine-human beauty and yet its complete fulfilment. It is a challenging beauty, a deformed beauty, but a powerful one, with power to transform our own suffering and sin. It is a beauty that shakes us to the core for here we see that the beauty that saves is a person; Jesus is the Beautiful One, who will save the world.

“Dignity and beauty in the liturgy” and “celebrate with dignity and beauty” were phrases coined by Fr. Alberione also to be used by us his spiritual daughters, in our ministry of promoting beauty as a means of evangelization through the liturgy and the arts. In a world that has lost its sense of beauty and harmony, he saw the need to bring people to Jesus and help them to “pray in beauty.” He encouraged us to help families to have Christian art in their homes, a form of visual catechesis for those who may not be able to read or have access to the Bible. He was convinced that art can reshape the culture and awaken the desire within for the good, the true and the beautiful.

Transfigured Icons

When the Book of Genesis says, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,’ it tells us that the world is a work of art, and it tells us who the Artist is. Over and over again it repeats that God sees that His Creation is ‘good’. When He creates His masterpiece – mankind – He sees that it is ‘very good.’ The Lord is continuously working on us. We are like a piece of clay in God the Potter’s Hands where he keeps shaping and moulding us to the image of our God (cf: Jeremiah 18). When we allow God to transfigure us, we reflect His Beauty, becoming icons of the glory of God (2 Cor 3:18).

One of the Fathers of the Church, St. Basil reminds us that: ‘The world is a work of art displayed for our admiration’. If the world is a work of art, am I adding to its beauty or detracting from it? St. Basil also says that: “God does not judge the beauty of His work by the charm of the eyes, and He does not form the same idea of beauty that we form. God who planned an obvious design in His works, approved each one of them, because it fulfilled the purpose for which it was created.”

This is good to remember, because sometimes sin can distort what is beautiful and make it an object of temptation for us. Even our brother or sister can be objectified or deemed ugly in our eyes, because we no longer see them with eyes of love, as God created them. We also need to remember that each one of us is beautiful! “Beauty isn’t about having a pretty face. It’s about having a pretty mind, a kind heart, and most importantly, a beautiful soul.”

Discover God’s Masterpiece

Yes, inner beauty can be cultivated in any of us. God does not make junk. He has created each of us in His own image. However, many people do not feel beautiful inside. We are often smothered by a lack of confidence and even a lack of acceptance by others. In a way, we are like stained-glass windows. We sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, our true beauty can be revealed only if there is a light from within – the light of Christ. We need to trust that we are indeed “God’s masterpiece” and that ‘He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10). If we want to discover our mission or purpose in life, we need to understand that we are God’s work of art. This is the key to believing in God’s love for each one of us. While self-help books tell you to look within, the key is to look to God asking Him to help you discover your uniqueness.

It will not be easy, but it will be worth it. Beauty is always extravagant and simple at the same time. I like to think of the woman in the Gospel who breaks open the alabaster jar of precious nard (perfume) and anoints Jesus’ feet with it (John 12). Straight away people tried to criticise her, saying that she was wasting the ointment, but she knew what was important in life. As Christian disciples and pilgrims striving for beauty, Christ continues to come into our flawed existence. He sees the heart and can transform it into a beautiful work of art for the glory of God!

Sr. M. Louise O’Rourke

© is a Disciple of the Divine Master (PDDM), a religious order founded to evangelise through social communications and more specifically through art and beauty. She currently serves in Dublin, Ireland. She blogs over at: https:// pilgrimsprogresspddm.blogspot.com/.

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