The search for beauty has been an important part of my life and spiritual journey. I've searched for beauty in nature, food, the opposite sex, art, literature, books, music, tv, movies, God, people, and my travels. My search for beauty was the main reason I left the Protestant denominations to become a Catholic. The Mass is very beautiful, especially since Christ is really present. I love Catholic art, literature, and music. Love the beauty found in Catholic teaching, morality and in the saints.
So what is beauty? The beautiful is the quality of objects, sounds, ideas, activities, people and God, which please or satisfy us when experiences. Qualities that contribute toward beauty include unity, harmony, patterns, excellence, and truth. All parts are so balanced that to add or to subtract would harm the beauty of the whole. That definition is broad enough to include a great variety of human experience including the beauties of nature, all branched of learning especially the arts and science, people and all aspects of spiritual life.
Beauty is a gift from God and should be enjoyed as such. Beauty needs no justification and should be enjoyed for its own sake. For god's sake. We get benefits from it. Beauty feeds our soul and spirit, keeps us psychologically and spiritually healthy. One psychologist Rollo May claimed beauty saved his life when he was depressed and searching for the meaning of life. Beauty brings pleasure to our lives. It is also a way to bring greater joy and happiness.
Beauty is a character trait of God and is natural to him. Beauty is in God. So seeking beauty is a way to God. Isaiah prophesied God would be a “garland of glory and a diadem of beauty” to his people (28:5). In Psalm 27:4, King David states”one thing I ask of the Lord, that will I seek after to dwell in the house of the Lord all my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord.” The most important part of my search for beauty has been in my search for God. The beauty of God is especially found in his holiness, in his perfection. How awesome it is to spend time just sitting in his presence at Mass, in adoration, prayer, worship, meditating on his Word in Scripture, in our devotions.
The Psalmist said: the heavens declare the glory of God; and the earth proclaims his handiwork” (19:1). Cultivating a sense of the beauty of God’s creation in nature is a powerful way to get closer to God and appreciate his goodness. You get from nature a sense of peace and joy. In Genesis 1, God made everything in the beginning and declares it good. He keeps on making beautiful things. This was in contrast to the Israelite pagan neighbors who believed the world was totally evil.
We live in one of the most beautiful areas of the world, where the beauty of God’s creation is so present in mountains, rivers, lakes, ocean shores, evergreen trees, and flowers. One of my spiritual disciplines on my day off is to drive to White Roch and walk the promenade and pier. I find beauty there whatever season I go. You will find beauty in your own favorite places locally and places you like to travel to as I did recently in Maui. On the brach I feel closer to God, pray or think about life while walking. I make sure I’m not just walking with blinders, but fully aware of the beauty of the colours, sounds, and smells around. I feel a sense of peace and joy from it all.
The beauty of God’s creation leads to our own human creation which is wonderful. Here we enjoy the beauty found in culture: poems, novels, paintings, sculpture, buildings, music, dance, and plays. The Catholic church has been influential in all these areas historically but they don't’ necessarily have to be Christian in theme or for religious use. Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, viewing a Greek sculpture of Apollo, wrote for anyone encountering beauty: ”you must change your life.” This week I went to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra that featured the music of one of my favorite singing duos: Simon and Garfunkel. I came out inspired and uplifting. Two days later, I went to see one of the best movies of the year: Lala Land.:; Without spoiling it for you, it was a beautiful movie with song and dance, a beautiful romance and beautiful theme of how an aspiring actress and jazz pianist help each other to succeed in their difficult vocations. I came out of the theatre encouraged and inspired.
A final beauty spot is found in God’s most beautiful treasured creation. People. People are beautiful. The age doesn’t matter. All ages are beautiful from the wide-eyed wonderful innocence of the newborn to the wise face of a 90-year-old. The beauty and value of a human being come from our mysterious nature. When God made us, he said we were very good. We’re made in his image. We are beautiful, spiritual, creative, able to relate to one another in love and set apart for God’s pleasure.
A good spiritual discipline is to look for God and the good in every person. St. Theresa of Calcutta found God in the poorest of the poor in the streets of Calcutta. We can usually find beauty even amid difficult human-caused situations. Ann Frank was a Jewish girl who his from the Germans in a small space in an apartment. She wrote in her diary of the beauty around her and of her happiness.
To truly appreciate beauty, live in the present, not in the past and future. Cultivate your five senses to really see, hear, smell. Taste and feel the things around you. This may require discipline to constantly bring your mind back to the present reality. Seek beauty as you seek your daily bread. Give yourself a gift of daily beauty. German writer Johan Wolfgang von Goethe said: “we ought to hear at least one little song every day, read a good poem, see first-rate painting, and if possible speak a few sensible words.”
The universe is brimming with beauty. Let’s become more sensitive to the beauty in God in nature, culture, people and in everything. Life is a spiritual beauty walk. We need a god’s eye view, faith to see it, to have an attitude of wonder and gratitude to God. Listen to a prayer from American Navaho Natives: “ I walk with beauty before me, I walk with beauty behind me, I walk with beauty above me. I walk with beauty below me, I walk with beauty all around me. Your world is so beautiful, oh God.”