Monday, August 27, 2007

Beauty Ever Ancient, Ever New

I was sitting in my ex's house over the weekend musing over beauty, hers, ...her home's,... and all of the "finer" things that a bachelor somehow seems to miss when his lady has left. It's more than just picked up socks, a clean sink, scented candles and matching wall colors, although that's part of it.

She's a fine woman. No doubt of it. There's a sense of beauty which she brought to the seven years of our home and life together. I appreciated it once again when I took time to notice the beauty and atmosphere of her current home.

But knowing that this week we are facing the memorial of St. Augustine I couldn't help but move on to ponder Beauty in its more abstract forms....

Late have I loved you,
O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,
late have I loved you!

You were within me, but I was outside,
and it was there that I searched for you.
In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.

You were with me, but I was not with you.
Created things kept me from you;
yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.

You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.
You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.
You breathed your fragrance on me;
I drew in breath and now I pant for you.

I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.
You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

~ St. Augustine, Confessions of St. Augustine

Beautiful scenery, beautiful places, beautiful buildings, beautiful persons, all of these provoke a reaction in our most human souls- a sense of desire but also a lingering sense of incompleteness.

That sadness only remains sad or deepens into depression, however, when it ceases to perform its proper function in our lives- to lead us back to God, who is True Beauty, to provoke thanksgiving toward the Father who created it AND us.

Beauty of whatever type only becomes pornographic when it somehow gets detached from the meaning and purpose of the Creator. Then, it becomes like an inscrutable symbol... pretty to look at, but contentless on its own, without a Meaning.

Conversely, Beauty can lead us towards a grand vision of All and Everything brought to God.

So, I sat on Sunday morning in a comfy chair in a beautiful home
and read that last and greatest vision of Isaiah (66:18-21).

Here the grand Prophet fulfills the hope of the Exile.
Here lies the final End of all 66 chapters of dancing images,....
punishment and redemption,
burning coals on sinful lips,
roads made straight for God's feet,
the faceless Servant's death.

This is the final fantasy fulfillment of God's City,
as Augustine also no doubt also saw
from its southernmost outskirts in North Africa:

"They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations
as an offering to the Lord on horses and in chariots,
in carts, upon mules and dromendaries,
to Jerusalem, my holy mountain,
says the Lord,
just as the Israelites bring their offering
to the house of the Lord in clean vessels."

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