One night this week a group of friends and I did something rather scandalous at this crazy-busy time of year: We took a “beauty break.”
This is not about getting nails and hair done or any other external spa treatment — but it does help smooth the worry wrinkles around the eyes, soften furrowed brows, loosen the tightness around one’s lips and even ease knotted shoulders.
“What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him?”
How? We connected to God by contemplating something beautiful — and then talked about it with each other.
We placed our “to-do lists” on pause for a bit; we came together and listened to a priest speak about the theology of beauty; and then we discussed the Henry Ossawa Tanner painting of the Annunciation. With the help of a learned friend, we placed ourselves in the painting as best we could and became absorbed in something very outside our ordinary. It was the internal rejuvenation we needed for our weary souls.
Here are the three “Cs” that Fr. John Pietropaoli gave to help us cultivate the way of beauty:
All of us must intentionally create time and space for beauty in our lives. God is beauty. He is the font and source of all beauty. It is easy to think, “That beautiful church or museum will always be there.” But remember — we won’t!
Take advantage of the moment. Go to a church or museum during a lunch break or use your Sunday as a Sabbath rest and restore your soul with beauty. Beauty is not a luxury. It is a vital part of seeing God reflected in all that He has created around us. He draws us ever closer to Him through beauty, and we are then able to get a proper perspective on who He is and who we are.
“When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place — what is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4-5)
When you do stop and notice the beauty around you, let it bring you to praise and say, “Thank you.” This is a life-changing habit that we can form. If we can read the finger of God in beauty, it will bring us to read His presence in everything and we will be able to say with St. Paul, “In everything, God works for the good for those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28)
Find someone to share your experience with and talk about it. Discussing beauty makes it bloom all the more and fills our hearts with joy, not because of the created thing itself, but because it leads us right back to the source of all beauty: God Himself. If we gather in His name with the purpose of having sacred conversation about things He created, His Spirit comes and enlivens our conversation. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
Stop today and notice something beautiful. Perhaps contemplate a sacred painting and place yourself in it, such as the Annunciation. Ask yourself, “What if I were Mary and an angel of Light appeared in my living room? Could I say ‘Yes’ as she did?” Look at the details of the surrounding setting.
“Am I an empty vessel like Mary, ready to be filled with God and be used by Him?” Notice the rough, voluminous cloth. “What humanity am I ensconced in that God will use, if I let Him?” Observe the wrinkled rug.
Ask, “How did that happen? Was Mary overwhelmed at the news? Did the powerful force of the angel’s appearance cause a shock wave?” Ask: “Am I still ‘staggered’ by the incredible news that God has been made Incarnate through the Virgin’s ‘yes’?” If not, ask Him to instill in you a sense of wonder and awe once again.
You don’t have to go far to find beauty. Simply look outside at the incredible blue sky, a sunset, or up at the stars tonight and be amazed at the exquisiteness of all that our beloved, creator God has made to speak volumes to us of Himself and whisper of His love.
“The heavens proclaim the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)
You are beautiful and all You have made speaks of You. Please help me in this very busy time not to overlook the large and small ways You say, “I love you,” through all You have created. Help me to be intentional by allowing myself opportunities to contemplate beauty. I want to be an instrument of beauty to others, through acts of service that will inspire them to do beautiful things for others as well — as beauty is contagious. Thank You, beautiful God, for drawing me to Yourself through all things wonderful. May I never stop short in just admiring the creation without it taking me all the way to the heart of the Creator. Show me Yourself anew. I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Melissa Overmyer is the founder of Something Greater Ministries in Washington, D.C., and has been teaching the Bible for over 30 years.