God’s creation is beautiful and is so because God created it out of divine love.
To the world, beauty is all too often just a matter of outward appearances and the advertising experts know all about this and perpetuate this sense of beauty in the crass pursuit of profit. If we watch television, go to the movies, or spend time on our phones or computers, we are bombarded with in-your-face blandishments of this commercialistic assault on our senses.
The drivers behind this assault are many. The preeminent driver is, of course, greed, the endless quest for material gain, or profit. And because this pursuit of profit is more often than not amoral, that is, not necessarily governed by moral limits, it willingly and cleverly appeals to the most basic of emotions in the consumer, that is, the need to be liked, to be acceptable, to be honored, to stand above others, etc. And it is eminently successful. It pits us against ourselves and others and, though it appears to be the “pursuit of happiness,” in the end, it is the cause of much of our inner self-doubt and suffering. Why? Because it takes our eyes off of God and toward far lesser things.
But beauty is much greater than this. Its source is not in things, rather it is a gift from God. God is the source of all that is truly beautiful. Beauty is a transcendent reality that appeals directly to our eternal souls, which of course, were made in beauty by God. Because of this, when we encounter true beauty and recognize it, it changes us, it heightens our capacity for understanding God and ourselves, for it is in beauty that God expresses himself and his love. If we can’t appreciate beauty, we cannot understand God.
God’s sense of beauty contradicts the world’s concepts of beauty. We get a hint of God’s sense of beauty in the scriptures. In Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, and 25, we read at the end of each day of creation, “God saw that it was good”. Indeed, on the sixth day we hear the intimate tones of God’s attitude toward us, when after creating man we read, “God saw that it was ‘very’ good” (Gen. 1:31). And again, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Eccl. 3:11).
Fyodor Dostoevsky writes two very powerful statements about beauty in his powerful novel about suffering, despair, and society’s corruption, The Idiot. The first statement goes like this: “The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.” In this sense he is talking about true beauty, which is of God, and the “appearance” of beauty, which is all the devil can produce. But he makes another statement about beauty that resonates with a hope rooted in faith, “Beauty will save the world”. He was thinking here about Christ, the very beauty that went to the extreme of redemptive sacrificial love to save the world. The writer, Jean Anouih, writes, “Beauty is one of the rare things that does not lead to doubt of God.”
God’s creation is beautiful and is so because God created it out of divine love. If we cannot see that we are surrounded by beauty and that we have a duty toward it, both in nature and in our relationships with our fellow human beings and God, we cannot understand God, or God’s love. Maybe this blindness is the reason why the world is so full of suffering, rather than experiencing the peace of God’s wisdom and beauty. But hope springs eternal. We can believe that in the end, “beauty saves the world” because of the Cross and the Resurrection.SKM: below-content placeholder