One thing I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life
to behold the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
The calendar says that Epiphany is Friday, January 6, but I have been having my own epiphany of sorts throughout the holiday season. What I mean is, throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons I have been awakened to the presence of sublime beauty. It started the night I saw Christmas lights going up in the neighborhood and suddenly found myself saying, “Beautiful!” It happened as I listened to Handel’s “Messiah” and I kept saying “Beautiful!” It happened with the V-formation of Canadian geese taking off into a vermilion sunset, and I was saying “Beautiful!”
It has been an epiphany for me to realize how much our spirits crave beauty. Beauty brightens the daily grind and reminds us that we are created in God’s image and destined for greater things. Victor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning, tells that seeing the “beauty” of a fish head floating in his dirty, watery soup helped him survive the horrors of Auschwitz. Frankl said that in that ugly, hellish camp he “experienced the beauty of art and nature as never before.”
When Alexander Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize he began his acceptance speech quoting the novelist Dostoevsky: “Beauty will save the world.” Solzhenitsyn said those words had long puzzled him, but he had come to believe that beauty would save the world. He believed that beauty would provide the seedbed for truth and goodness to flourish.
It is striking that in today’s Scripture David, the poet-musician, says he aspires to live his whole life beholding “the beauty of the LORD.” Similarly, St. Augustine writes in his Confessions about being charmed and enamored by the beauty of God: “All things are beautiful because you made them, but you who made all things are inexpressibly more beautiful…Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you.”
All beautiful things are created to point us to the Beauty who is God. Beautiful decorations, sublime music and birds flying in formation all speak to us of God. Just as people are transfixed by a piece of music or art, so people can be transfixed by the ineffable beauty of God and respond to Him. Truth without goodness and beauty is powerless to win over the unbelieving. Similarly, concern for goodness without truth and beauty will degenerate into moralism and legalism. The church must tell proclaim God’s truth and goodness, but also His beauty. (See Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord, Vol. II).
In a post-modern culture despairing of any absolute truth and goodness, we must show them the sublime, exquisite beauty of God. That means that there is yet more music to be written, more pictures to be painted, more tables to be decorated, more flowers planted, and more grace shown to sinners. Every man and every woman craves the beauty pointing them to ultimate Beauty.
Like David, I want to behold the beauty of the Lord all the days of my life! It is His beauty that will save the world.
This is the epiphany I keep having and hope will inspire me through the New Year!
Grace and peace,