“Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory.” (Psalm 50:2)
Many of us can remember a soul stirring spiritual encounter with a song, a painting, a poem, or a story. A moving encounter with profound beauty often comes as a surprise. We treasure such moments precisely because they are sublimely unnecessary, serving no evidently practical purpose. Even amid the horrors of Nazi concentration camps, beautiful music got composed and performed, and in those brief moments, the light of heaven shone in the pits of hell.
From inside our dull, if not always overtly ugly, existence, we will grasp at such glimmers of heavenly beauty as may be within our reach. The story of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ is one of those glimmers. It’s difficult not to be envious of Peter and James and John. It was an encounter with sheer beauty that drove them to make some response, but in fact, no response was adequate, so great was the transfigured splendor of Jesus on that mountaintop.
Among the other inherent attributes of his nature that he has revealed to us, God is beautiful. God’s beauty is made accessible to us, broadly speaking, in the Incarnation. In the face of Christ, we see the face of God. But God’s beauty is made available to us specifically and concretely when we come together to re-member, to put back together, the body of the transfigured Christ as we celebrate the Eucharist, as we take our places beside Peter and James and John and “behold the fair beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27).
In the light of the transfigured Christ, we can take the ugliness of human experience and look at it from an angle that calls forth hope rather than despair. This is why it is so vitally important that we come back to the altar, Sunday by Sunday, as often as we are able, to seek the face of God, to behold his fair beauty in his house, his temple. It is the vision of God’s beauty – God’s beauty touching us in the innermost parts of our souls, God’s beauty made available to us in word and sacrament, in the liturgy of the Church – that enables us to keep on keeping on in the face of the ugliness and blandness that surrounds us.
Look it Up
The Revelation to St. John depicts several scenes of awesome beauty in which God is gloriously worshiped by his people. See especially chapters 4 and 5.
Think About It
What music, art, poetry or natural scene strikes you as deeply beautiful? Has the experience of that beauty made you feel closer to God?