The look on His face

During Advent, we meditate on the Second Coming of Christ as well as the first.  In the book of Revelation, it says: “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  I could not help but think of what Christ’s face will look like when we are presented to Him as His bride when I looked at these photos.  May they be a meditation for you of the pure love of your Bridegroom: 24 grooms seeing their brides for the first time.  So great is His love for you.

Taking in Your Loveliness

A beautiful poem on beauty by one of our sisters, Sr. Stacy Whitfield:

                       Beauty

I love your wild extravagance,
mountain flower and autumn leaves
Endowed with lovely lavishness,
making much of what none sees.

Yet surely you would not adorn
with greater glory grassy hills
Than sons and daughters made for joy
and destined for more beauty still.

Oh give me hope to lift my soul
to beauties that yet lie unseen,
That wait beyond the shimm’ring veil,
awaiting Dawn’s eternity.

The wondrous views of heaven’s scope
from which earth’s grand reflection springs,
The beauty that is fairer still
than all your earthly artistry.

Oh give me faith and love to long
to see all beauty’s heavenly source,
From which all loveliness is flowing,
river-like upon its course.

The fullness of all beauty there
on which to gaze to soul’s delight,
A heart all pure, a form all fair,
the fountainhead of love, of light.

I shall abide in blissful rest,
loving Love and Beauty seeing,
Taking in your loveliness
with opened eyes, with transformed being.

                                          ©Sr. Stacy Whitfield (revised February 3, 1991)

Bless the Lord, my soul!

Bless the Lord, my soul!
Lord God, how great you are,
clothed in majesty and glory,
wrapped in light as in a robe!

You stretch out the heavens like a tent.
Above the rains you build your dwelling.
You make the clouds your chariot,
and walk on the wings of the wind;
you make the winds your messengers
and flashing fire your servants.

Psalm 104

The artist’s task

Life can throw us many curve balls, as they say.  Some are big and some are small, but all are important in the formation of how we handle life.  Sydney Eddison recounts (in Gardening for a Lifetime) a story “of the violinist Itzhak Perlman, who as a boy was struck with polio and who as a man must walk with the aid of leg braces and crutches.

At a concert on the night of November 18, 1995, at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, one of the strings of his violin suddenly snapped during the performance.  Stunned, the audience held their collective breath, expecting Perlman to stop and leave the stage.  Instead, he paused, then continued playing–adjusting, creating, compensating as he went along, and when he put down his bow at the end of the concert, a mighty roar of applause filled the hall.  When it had died down, he spoke to the audience: “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

Listen to him playing the theme from Schindler’s List.  Our lives can also sound as beautiful if we continue to respond as best we can in God’s grace to all that life brings us.

God saw that it was beautiful

I’m back pondering “beauty”–partly because I’m reading an excellent article, “Tolkien and St. Thomas on Beauty” from the current issue of StAR.  Lots to ponder there.  Then this morning I stumbled on this post from Conversion Diary about music and beauty.  Seems to be a theme for my day today.  Actually, the upshot of my pondering this morning was to ask God for more of His eyes, to be able to see the beauty in every soul I encounter today (including my own).  When God created the world, Genesis says He “saw that it was good” which also means “beautiful.”  This is how God sees us:

The Creator, like a divine poet, in bringing the world into being out of nothingness, composed his “Symphony in Six Days,” the Hexameron. After each one of his creative acts, he “saw that it was beautiful.”  The Greek text of the biblical story uses the word kalon–beautiful–and not agathon–good; the Hebrew word carries both meanings at the same time.  (Paul Evdokimov, The Art of the Icon: a Theology of Beauty, p. 2)

A pure transparent pool

I’ve been thinking about how I would answer my own query at the end of yesterday’s post, and one thing that immediately came to mind that brings beauty into my own life is a little photo album of art prints and such that I have collected.  For many of them I have an accompanying quote on the facing page.  Often I use it as an accompaniment in prayer, a source of meditation.  One example of this can be found here.  And here is another example:

I find this image of Mary quite beautiful.  Its title is Mary, the Mother and Consolation of the Grieving.   The following is the poem I have placed opposite it:

THE POOL OF GOD

There was nothing in the Virgin’s soul
that belonged to the Virgin–
no word, no thought, no image, no intent.
She was a pure, transparent pool reflecting
God, only God.
She held His burnished day; she held His night
of planet-glow or shade inscrutable.
God was her sky and she who mirrored Him
became His firmament.

When I so much as turn my thoughts toward her
my spirit is enisled in her repose.
And when I gaze into her selfless depths
an anguish in me grows
to hold such blueness and to hold such fire.
I pray to hollow out my earth and be
filled with these waters of transparency.
I think that one could die of this desire,
seeing oneself dry earth or stubborn sod.
Oh, to become a pure soul like the Virgin,
water that lost the semblances of water
and was a sky like God.
~Jessica Powers

“You are the Custodians of Beauty”

A couple of months ago, I began a series of posts on beauty.  Pope Benedict XVI just last week addressed a group of some 250 artists gathered in the Sistine chapel on this very theme. What particularly struck me in his address was the link he made between beauty and hope.

Unfortunately, the present time is marked, not only by negative elements in the social and economic sphere, but also by a weakening of hope, by a certain lack of confidence in human relationships, which gives rise to increasing signs of resignation, aggression and despair.  . .  . What is capable of restoring enthusiasm and confidence, what can encourage the human spirit to rediscover its path, to raise its eyes to the horizon, to dream a life worthy of its vocation–if not beauty? . . . the experience of beauty, beauty that is authentic, not merely transient or artificial, is by no means a supplementary or secondary factor in our search for meaning and happiness; the experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it form darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful. [You can read the rest of the address here.]

Though this was addressed particularly to artists, I am convinced of the importance of all of us having this mind in the living of our daily lives.  We can all be “custodians of beauty” (Paul VI) wherever we are.  Even if all we do–and by no means of little importance–if all we do is constantly invite the Holy Spirit to make of our souls a thing of beauty, we will be a worthy custodian of beauty.  We each need contact with beauty ourselves, true beauty, that is–art, music, poetry, literature, nature, people–and we each need to be purveyors of beauty to those around us.  And, as we do this, I think we will discover that link that Pope Benedict spoke of between beauty and hope.

Need I say that most of all we need to long for the beauty of God, a longing that will not be fulfilled until we see Him face to face.    “The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing . . .to find the place where all the beauty came from.” (C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces)And isn’t that what Advent is all about?

I would be interested in where you find beauty: what books you’ve read, how you bring beauty into your homes, etc.  Please feel free to comment.