Via Pulchritudinis: The Beauty of Christ

Next up, the consideration of The Beauty of Christ, Model and Prototype of Christian Holiness. Saint Augustine introduces the idea for us, that the beauty of God’s created works leads the person to ponder the surpassing beauty of the Almighty:

While the beauty of creation is, according to St Augustine, a “confessio” and invites contemplation of beauty in its source, i.e., the “creator of heaven and earth, of all things, seen and unseen,” and while the beauty of artwork makes manifest something of beauty in its figure, the Son who took flesh, “the most beautiful of men”, there is also a third fundamental way, perhaps the most important, which leads us to the discovery of beauty in the icon of holiness, work of the Holy Spirit who shapes the Church in the image of Christ, model of perfection. For the baptized person, it is the beauty of witness given by a life transformed in Grace, and, for the Church, the beauty of the liturgy. It lets us experience God alive among His people attracting to Him those who let themselves be taken up in this meeting of joy and love.

The Biblical image of the Suffering Servant is a bit different. Human sin clouds our vision, deceives the eye, and inflicts ugliness and destruction on our surroundings. Worst of all, it takes joy while inflicting damage. Isaiah 53:3 for example:

He was spurned and avoided by (others),
a man of suffering, knowing pain,
Like one from whom you turn your face,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

The spouse is also beautiful, through the grace of the bridegroom:

The Ecclesia de charitate, witness of the beauty of Christ, reveals herself as his spouse made more beautiful by her Lord when she makes acts of charity and preferential choices, when she engages in the promotion of justice and building up the great common house where every creature is called to live, especially the poor: they too have a right to beauty.

Yes. The bridegroom is also to be found in the needy. In Matthew 25:31ff we find Jesus suggesting we look carefully to people we might hold in no esteem. (Cf. Isaiah 53:3) Yet this is the way of peace and harmony:

At the same time this witness of beauty by charity and by engagement in the service of justice and peace announces the hope that never fails. To offer the men and women of today the true beauty, to make the Church attentive to always announce, in good times and in bad, the beauty that saves and that is felt in those places where eternity has planted its tent over time is to offer reasons to live and hope to those who are without or risk losing it. The Church, witness to the final meaning of life, seed of confidence at the heart of human history, appears already as the people of the beauty that saves, for it anticipates in these last times something of the beauty promised by this God who will bring all things to completion in Him at the end of time.

We conclude this idea with one of the most difficult of virtues:

Hope, militant anticipation of the coming into the saved world promised in the crucified and resurrected Son, is a proclamation of beauty. Of this the world has a particular need.

The full document is here.

Image: the rose window at Notre Dame in Paris, By Zachi Evenor based on File:North rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris, Aug 2010.jpg by Julie Anne Workman – CC BY-SA 2.0,

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Art, evangelization, Via Pulchritudinis. Bookmark the permalink.

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