Journal of the Beautiful

I am taking a class this summer called A Theology of Beauty and in this class we are to keep a reading/reflection journal each week. I thought my weekly reflections may be of some interest to you, my faithful reader. Here, in its entirety, is week 1.

 

                                                                    The Dance of Longing

 

            From as early as I can remember I sensed an invitation in my heart. As a boy I loved being near the water and gazing into the horizon as far as my eyes could see. Something about the vast endlessness of the ocean was satisfying to my eyes and the adventure it provoked in my spirit told me there was more to life then getting by. I pondered people and animals, trees and rivers with a feeling that just below the surface were great mysteries to be revealed that would even illumine the mystery of my own existence. These, of course, were the rumors rustling like leaves throughout the New Testament.[1] These were the pinpricks to awaken me from slumber and invite me into the dance. They were the opportunity to see the world bathed in light and fully recognize the glory of the Lord as he fills the earth. I did not know what to call the longings then, but they made me feel alive and happy. As a boy I was content to sit with a cane pole fishing by a pond all day just watching the curious creatures dip in and out of sight. Nothing thrilled me more then being enveloped by the beauty around me in a blanket of quintessence beyond what my young heart could grasp. I wanted what C.S. Lewis’ wrote about, “… to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”[2]

                 When I was surrounded by the harmony of nature I felt I was home. I sensed a oneness with the Divine, an invitation to his world where my heart could be fully alive. As von Balthasar wrote, “We are initiated into these mysteries because we ourselves are spirit in nature and because all the expressive laws of the macrocosm are at work in ourselves.”[3] Thomas Dubay, in his book The Evidential Power of Beauty, says because our “… living intellects are rooted in our bodily/spiritual beings we are attuned to the universe” around us.[4] Beauty strikes a chord resounding a sympathetic note off the heartstrings of every human being. In music the vibration of one note can cause other sympathetic strings to vibrate in accord. It is like that in nature. When we behold in the beauty of creation the masterwork of the divine artist something resonates in our spirit and longs to be one with the artist because we are part of his beautiful creation. As it says in Ephesians, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.[5] The Greek word poema is translated here as workmanship but is more closely associated with a work of art or poem. If I am his poem, or expression, to the world should I not then live as a burning bush with the “fire of his divine love” and the “dazzling brilliance” of his beauty inside my heart?[6]

                Helen Steiner Rice said, “Every bush is aflame with the glory of God.” So why not every man, woman, and child? If he bestows such radiance on mountains, streams and valleys why not the crowning achievement of his creation- namely those created in his likeness? “ According to St. Paul, glory appears where the form and the idea of God, which inhabits it, become one. This is especially true where form becomes a place of theophany, where the body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit.”[7] If the Holy Spirit now animates my life, then I should reflect that brilliance in my heart, mind, and deeds. I should diffuse the fragrance of Christ wherever I go like, “… the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from another country we have never visited.”[8] If I am his workmanship, work of art, poem to the world then it necessitates no striving on my part to do such. I simply am and in the very act of my being I am what he created me to be. A mountain does not struggle to look majestic. Rain makes no effort to be dramatic. A sunrise does not get up early to apply makeup to be beautiful. Those inanimate things are as I am- beautiful. We reflect his “dazzling brilliance” to a world overcome with darkness. As light envelops us in the hope of glory we take form and shape and appear as he is in this world. St. John writes that it has not yet appeared as yet what we shall be but when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.[9]

               Beauty and light purify my heart. As behold him I become like him. As I love my wife I am drawn away from impurity. As I reflect and embrace his beauty, my heart is cleansed from the ugliness and darkness I have seen and done. Is there no more powerful cleansing agent then the beauty of the Lord? Is this not what King David longed to gaze upon for eternity? Forsaking all the earthly pleasures afforded a king to simply be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord and gaze upon his beauty endlessly. What does the true beauty of the Lord look like, if all I have ever known are messengers or reflections of his beauty? What will it be like to be united for all eternity with the fount of eternal joy and pleasure? Pursuing the answers to those questions could be a most satisfying life.

 

 


 [1] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (Bb) (Accessed May 1, 2012), 43.

 [2] Ibid., 42.

 [3] Thomas Dubay, The Evidential Power of Beauty (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1999), 65.

 [4] Ibid.

 [5] Ephesians 2:10 (NASB).

 [6] Paul Evdokimov, “ The Biblical Vision of Beauty, The Theology of Beauty in the Fathers,” The Art of the Icon; A Theology of Beauty. 1996 (Bb) (Accessed May 1, 2012), 11-12.

 [7] Ibid., 12.

 [8] Lewis, 31.

 [9] I John 3:2-3 

 
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