“There are no ugly people, Papa.”
Meira Grace, my 4-year-old granddaughter
I have become more deeply aware of beauty—beauty in the world, the beauty of people, and beauty of life. One does not think of NYC as a place of beauty with its giant buildings, noise, glare, and concrete everywhere. Beauty can be found in obscure and neglected places, but also in places like celebrated museums, where we see glorious art of portraits and landscapes. However, we often neglect the beauty of God’s greater creation – humanity. And we tend to neglect the most profound expression of God’s beauty, the incarnation of His son Jesus.
I have watched for years an old man pushing his walker down my street toward his doctor’s office--toothless, hunchbacked, and unkempt – with a dour expression. But when I say hello and ask how he is doing, his whole countenance changes--eyes twinkle, a toothless smile breaks forth, and a friendly nod speaks volumes. He always says, “Thank you for asking!” Nearby an elderly housebound lady stands by her window and waits with hopes to wave to me and whoever notices her as they pass by. I often wonder what was she like as a young woman?
For those who follow Christ, we are entering into a deliberate remembrance of our Lord’s suffering and love during the season of Lent, leading up to Easter. Scripture reminds us that Christ was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) This reference was a prefigured prophecy to the crucifixion of Christ and the torture that He endured. (I recommend you see the movie “Risen” this season.) Clearly that type of horror and ugliness could not be endured in our fleshly strength. But yet this awful display of inhumanity, mixed with the joy of atonement and resurrection, was well described by my mentor and friend, Father Jim, from New Melleray Abbey as “the beauty of His Holiness.” What a contemplation that the worst sorrow and pain, the ugliness of torture on the cross, could be described as beauty....because it was for our sake.
Often beauty, like faith, is hidden as a “pearl of great price.” A friendship that could have been a joy is thrown away because one could not see the beauty of the other; a marriage failed because of inordinate expectations and unrecognized blessing; love is not received because of ego needs not met; a country is divided by hatred and ugly accusations because our vision of another is not love or beauty, but fear and hatred.
The beauty of His holiness, His death on the cross, and the joy of resurrected life is an offering to all for us to see one another as the Lord sees each of us--beautiful and beloved. His love beckons our lonely souls to Him and reminds us of how beauty and grace become real, because “God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son.”
Praying that our eyes are open to His beauty and His holiness,