Monday, October 7, 2013

On Beauty

"Why Beauty Matters" is one of the most thought-provoking things I've watched in a long time.  Thank you to the ladies of Like Mother, LIke Daughter who linked to it.  The hour-long documentary briefly touches on many types of art:  painting, sculpture, architecture, music, poetry.  Roger Scruton attempts to explain why we need beauty in our lives.

I probably could not have told you why I find certain types of art ugly or pointless, although some stuff that passes for "Art" these days is really nothing but grotesquery.  It's ugly and vulgar.  Most of us can agree on that.  I also could not have expressed why I find certain types of architecture ugly, and other types, which may be fairly plain and simple, attractive.

My soul craves beauty, however.  When I see a colorful dawn or sunset, I am readily reminded of the Creator and his majesty.  A peaceful landscape does the same thing.  I am reminded of my Lord, and my heart sighs with peace and joy.  And gratitude.  

Going to a museum these days can be a bit of a gamble as there are exhibits of more traditional are that are exceptional and others that are....not.  We can wander from painting to painting, or sculpture to sculpture, admiring the beauty of brushstrokes and colors, or the incredible way that a chunk of marble becomes the glistening form of a person.  Other galleries simply make us wonder how someone came up with the idea of doing whatever they did.  Maybe there are interesting colors and textures in some modern art, but that's not the same as true beauty.  Those galleries may be merely puzzling while others are the ones you rush through because there is nothing mesmerizing, nothing that links you to the eternal.

One interesting part of the documentary is his discussion of love and lust.  Love is beautiful, but lust is ugly.  Over the years I have found myself explaining to one child after another that pictures or statues of naked people are not (necessarily) shameful.  They learn from an early age that nakedness is wrong (maybe some of that is my attempts at teaching modesty, and much is from our culture), and I must explain that the human form is one of God's greatest, most beautiful creations, and that to admire that beauty is acceptable if we look at it that way.  It's all in how you look at a thing.

When I take the time to stop dwelling on the busy-ness of life long enough to look around me and see the beauty in people or things, I can't help but see God.  I appreciate his greatness.  True artists are blessed to be able to share in His creative gifts.

I have to ask why there is so little attempt to make the worship of the God who gave us so much beauty reflect Him?  Why is the (Novus Ordo) Mass so often just an attempt at feel-good brotherly love rather than music and actions that truly lift our souls to God?  That would truly change our culture---to have a Mass whose beauty transcends space and time and transports us to heaven.  In turn, we would carry that with us throughout the week (if we weren't compelled to return for a taste daily!), touching the lives of everyone we meet.


  1. Elizabeth (Hanna) Pham touches on this often in her blog.

  2. This past weekend we attended Saturday evening Mass at a different parish because Doug had a commitment at an event there afterward. It was just as you described -- feel good/happy happy. Awful. Both kids with us were rolling their eyes and I said, "Next week you'll really appreciate St. Matthew's!"

    We are so grateful we have priests who beautifully integrate parts of the Traditional Mass into the new Mass. We are blessed! We have a reverent congregation and traditional music. We also have to drive 23 minutes to get there, but so worth it!


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