Posted by Erika Glover on 5/17/18 7:00 AM
Have you ever felt that overwhelming feeling of peace and awe and God-fearing silence when looking at the sunset engulf the horizon, or waves lap at the shore, or the mountains pierce heaven?
It’s beautiful isn’t it? Yet, it didn’t have to be. Color didn’t have to be so bright and white didn’t have to be so pure, but yet, it is. Have you ever thought about that? Why is there beauty? What is the purpose of this wonderful gift, and why does it make us feel so good?
What Defines Beauty?
When our eyes set upon something that is beautiful, there is usually something that is uniquely good about it. Something that serves no practical or just function other than just to be wonderful. Now this doesn’t have to be extravagant material things, I’m talking about the small blessings that God gives us, without us noticing. Food, for example, doesn’t have to taste good for it to nourish our bodies, but God created sweets and salty and sours anyways.
The beautiful thing about the way that God loves us is the same love that parents give their babies zerberts when they are young. Never mind that there is no practical reason to tickle their babies, the joy on their face after is the pure bliss that is the true reason. Our Heavenly Father loves to do the same. He delights in gifting us with small moments of joy— a sweet orange, a vibrant sunset, or a soft rain storm— and seeing our faces light up with bliss. Each of these gifts are simply oozing with his mercy and grace and generosity.
How Are We Beautiful?
Humans have a special relationship to beauty that no other creature has. We’re the only creatures that can fully appreciate beauty and find in it a source of prayer, because beautiful things raise our hearts and minds to heaven. They call us to contemplate the source of the all beauty. Maybe it is that we love beautiful things—nature, music, films, books, artwork—because they tell us something about ourselves. We see in the beauty around us the handiwork of the same Divine Artist who created us.
There is beauty in creation—in its glory and extravagance. And with a level of humility, there is nothing extravagant about me. None of this had to exist. But our loving God freely chose to create it all. And because of that, it is with a full heart that I believe he freely chose to love me into existence.
Just like a sunset or laughter, a painting, or a fresh snowfall, I am the artwork of God—and so are you. This beauty teaches me to be who I am because my value is not measured by how useful I am or what others think of me. My true inherent beauty is there, whether I notice it or not. It comes from the passionate artist who created me, who delights in all of God's creation.
How can Beauty Help Us to Pray?
I love to paint. Lots and lots of sunsets and clouds. I’m a fan of painting water and mountains and reflections. I began to realize how much of a meditation this was when I was filling a blank space with color and blending mediums on a surface until I have just what I see in my head. In these times, I am able to recognize beauty. I am able to feel the source of creativity and beauty and feel what God must of felt as he crafted the oceans.
When we find beauty near us, it is natural to be grateful for it and to wonder about the one who created it. As Catholics, we have the privilege of knowing intimately the one who created all these things. God is no stranger to us; he is our Father, our Savior, and Lover. And he has left love notes to us, if only we pay attention to them.
What if We Cannot Find Beauty?
My advice is this, because I struggle too. Sometimes beauty seems hard to find, especially when the cross is hard to bear, when it is splintery and heavy. It seems that it is in these times we must remember what He has given us.
Of all the beauty on earth, there is none that compares to the Eucharist. Of all the gifts God has given us, there is nothing so extravagant as the Eucharist because he has given us his entire self. This is the beauty we receive in the Eucharist, and in times of doubt or desolation, God invites us to return a little piece of that love. He invites us to find beauty in the most unlikely of places—in the cross.
Take some quiet time. This can be when you first get up in the morning, during your prayer time, or before you go to bed. Sometimes our lives are so filled with noise that we can’t quiet our hearts, but sometimes a little bit of silence is all we need to become more aware of God’s presence and the beauty that he has surrounded us with.
Make a gratitude list. Beautiful things are things to be thankful for! Take stock of all the little moments of beauty that you might have missed before.
Journal. Find a Bible verse or song lyric that especially speaks to you and write it out by hand. Don’t rush it: take your time. Journal about why it’s meaningful to you. Write about a moment that you saw God, no matter what the size.
When our hearts are expectant, they receive beauty more easily. And why shouldn’t they be expectant? The God we worship is all truth, beauty, and goodness, and he has created us to share in it. Let’s not hesitate to start now. Because finding beauty in our everyday lives isn’t difficult if we keep our hearts ready.
Remember that God didn’t have to make the world beautiful. He created the world with awe-striking views, never-ending fields, mesmerizing sunsets, blooming flowers, joyful laughter, contagious smiles, soothing comfort, and intense warmth all because he loves us. He delights in our joy.