Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Makes Things Beautiful?

When we think of beautiful places we tend to think of a seaside beach, a mountain peak, a high waterfall, a beautiful flower, a beautiful home, a beautiful city and so forth. But what is beauty?  Jesus lived in a beautiful place, the city of Capernaum on the edge of the Sea of Galilee, a large lake in Israel through which flows the Jordan River. Did Jesus choose this place to live because of this beauty? Probably not.  Jesus was not like those who admire natural beauty alone and who almost deify it. Jesus was attracted more to moral beauty than natural beauty. The natural beauty that we enjoy is not so significant when compared with the beauty of a person worthy of the name human. An ancient philosopher said "What a beautiful being a human is when he is human."

Bishop Augustinos of Florina in Greece writes,
There are very beautiful homes, mansions, and buildings. We see them and are awestruck; but what good are they if they are inhabited by families who, by the misdeeds of their members and by their quarreling and feuding, have turned them into pits of hell. Then again, there are huts, contrary to their humble external appearance, contain miniature paradises inside––poor but Christian families whose members have the love of Christ. There are beautiful cities, delights to the eyes, built according to all the laws of architectural design, but what good are they? In today's beautiful cities dwell human animals more vicious than the ones in the African jungle. St. Chrysostom observes that cities are made beautiful not by their buildings, but by the people living in them. Are the people superior in thought and sentiment? Do they love God and do good for their community? If so,then the city is a beautiful and good place in which to live. If, however the city's people are not as God wants them to be––if they live in violation of the commandments of moral law, both in private and in public, then the city, according to St. Chrysostom, cannot be called beautiful; rather it is a city that provokes God's abomination and the disgust of those who think and feel in a godly way.
Jesus was in Capernaum because it was a beautiful city in a moral sense. You would have thought He would have chosen Jerusalem, a place with beautiful buildings and the great Temple, a place where there were people with political power, men of wealth and great philosophers, as the place to launch His new kingdom. While Jerusalem was a beautiful city in a physical sense, in its great buildings lived people like Anna, Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate. In the great Temple were corrupt clergy who offered sacrifices turning the temple into a market place, a den of thieves. In Galilee on the shores of the lake were cities that were quite different. They contained poor, humble, hard working people who lived by the sweat on their brows. There were farmers, shepherds and fishermen. It was these humble and simple people who first heard the sermons of the Incarnate Logos.

So what is beauty? What do you think is beautiful?  If you only think of physical things or places you need to think deeper. To you what is ugly may in realty be the greatest beauty. What kind of parish do you participate in? Do people like it because of the beautiful building, the glorious paintings inside, the melodious voice of the Choir or the the priest. A beautiful parish is one where there is harmony among the members, where they struggle together in love and respect for each other, helping each other when needed. It is a community where God is supreme in their thoughts.  When the parish council meets they first discuss the moral nature of their community and how to help it grow to live more congruently with the teaching of Christ.

How about your own family. Are you known for the beauty of your house and its possessions, or for the way each member behaves in relation to others?  Do they radiate the teachings of Christ in their actions? When the family gathers for meals is there a common prayer? In the evening is there a collective prayer giving thanks to God and seeking forgiveness for the mistakes of that day?

To understand beauty think about these things. Think of beauty in a moral and spiritual sense instead of a physical sense. We can of course appreciate the wonder and beauty of God's creation, but this is only of benefit if it leads to our love of Him and our desire to carry out His commandments.  In this way we become beautiful people.

Remember always we have been created in the image of God. We have the perfect beauty within each of us. Our life is about bringing this potential within each us to shine through all our actions. We live a full life of repentance for we know how imperfect we are, yet know the mercy of our loving God. We strive always to better our actions by seeking His help. We do this through our prayer, our watchfulness, and our participation in the sacramental life of the Church. In this way we find the greatest beauty of all, being perfected in the image of Christ.

Reference: Follow Me by Bishop Augoustinos of Florina, pp 3-9

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