When I was living in California, I had a striking experience of physical beauty. I had a classmate named S. who typified what a beautiful woman was. She was relatively short, but with a most striking regularly shaped face. Her eyes were dark and lively brown, her nose was straight, and her entire manner exuded a sweetness that I have not seen in another human being before or since.
When I left Los Angeles, I was told by the university never to speak with any of my classmates again. I remember that when I was told this, I felt like I was going to faint in the office where I was. For all of the misery I experienced living in California, those classmates of mine were conisdered my dearest friends. Although I did not associate with them regularly outside of class, I felt a connection to them on an intellectual and emotional level that I have not felt with other human beings. Perhaps, it was like Adam and the Garden of Eden. If you touch something and eat of the forbidden fruit, then you are cursed never to experience it again.
I have not spoken to S. in all of these years, but I have tracked her through the internet. The years have been good to her. She has gone to a fine school to continue her literary studies. She has been lauded by her professors and students as being one of the finest graduates the department had produced. In all of this, she has continued to be the most beautiful person that I have ever known.
After I left California, I thought of myself as a failure for a long time for many reasons. For example, I had not fulfilled the great expectations of my professors. Rather than rising to the occasion and proving that I could write and criticize literature, I had suffered a mental collapse. I had also betrayed my parents’ trust because I had not told them what was going on. Yet the feeling that was the worst was not the sense of failure or betrayal, it was loneliness.
It seems to me that God created beautiful things so that we might look at and admire them. There is something about people like S. that invites men to be chivalrous and loving. Indeed, the outward beauty of a person reflects their interior faculties. If a person is warm, loving, and has a great hear, it shows in more ways than one.
That beauty which S. had, I have seen multiplied time and again. Among nuns, priests, and religious, it is a quality that draws people to God. They see the goodness and beauty of God in their faces and their acts. These people are happy because they are free. They are free because they do not worry about the obligations of the world, the desires of the flesh, or anything else that used to pin them down. Now, they are free and more alive than anybody else.
It is a quality too that is reflected in holy cars of the saints and the Blessed Mother. Looking at Our Lady, one sees a beauty that is most heavenly. It is a testament to who she was and her role in the divine plan of salvation. She was created most beautiful, perhaps, because the stain of sin was not found in her. Yet this beauty was also reflected in her Son. How could it not be?
Our Lord’s countenance was a direction mirror of all thing that were beautiful, all things that were worthy. How could one look at that face and not see Him who created the world and everything within it? As the Vulgate Latin says so eloquently, “orbis terrarum et omnia quae in eis sunt…”
In our churches, the beauty of the statues and the Stations of the Cross is meant to take our minds away from the mundane realities of our lives. When we step into a church, we are somewhere else. We are no longer in another office building or school. Rather, we are in the house of our God and we are dwelling in the earthly tabernacles of the Most High.
Our liturgies reflect that same beauty Sunday after Sunday and year after year. It is the beauty and joy of heaven. A kingdom that is ours for the taking if only we would open up our hearts and see it. Indeed, God uses beauty to call us out of ourselves and to consecrate ourselves to hm. He uses it so that we may see Him as He is.
One of the greatest poets once said, “Beauty is Truth and Truth beauty.” How could it not be otherwise?
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!