Sunday, October 4, 2009

True Beauty

“Yet in the enjoyment of all such things we commit sin if through immoderate inclination to them—for though they are good, they are of the lowest order of good—things higher and better are forgetten, even You, O Lord our God, and Your Truth and Your Law. These lower things have their delights but not such as my God has, for He made them all: and in Him doth the righteous delight, and He is the joy of the upright of heart.”
--St. Augustine

One of the most beautiful things about sin is that it’s just so good! I mean, who can say no to all the beer in the world? Who can refuse all the pleasures this world has to offer? What Satan says in Paradise Lost rings true for almost everyone, “Evil, be thou my Good.”

Augustine saw this quite well. There is a certain show of beauty in sin. “Thus pride wears the mask of loftiness of spirit, although You alone, O God, are high above all.

“Ambition seeks honor and glory, although You alone are to be honored before all and glorious forever.

“The caresses by which the lustful seduce are a seeking for love: but nothing is more caressing than Your charity, nor is anything more healthfully loved than Your supremely lovely, supremely luminous Truth.

“Curiosity may be regarded as a desire for knowledge, whereas You supremely know all things.

“Ignorance and sheer stupidity hid under the names of simplicity and innocence: yet no being has simplicity like to Yours: and none is more innocent than You, for it is their own deeds that harm the wicked.

“Sloth pretends that it wants quietude: but what sure rest is there save the Lord?

“Enviousness claims that it strives to excel: but what can excel before You?

“Anger clamors for just vengeance, but whose vengeance is so just as Yours?

“Fear is the recoil from a new and sudden threat to something one holds dear, and a cautious regard for one’s own safety: but nothing new or sudden can happen to You, nothing can threaten Your hold upon things loved, and where is safety secure save in You?

“Grief pines at the loss of things in which desire delighted: for it wills to be like You from whom nothing can be taken away.

“Thus the soul is guilty of fornication when she turns from You and seeks from any other source what she will nowhere find pure and without taint unless she returns to You. Thus even those who go from You and stand up against You are still perversely imitating You. But by the mere fact of their imitation, they declare that You are the creator of all that is, and that there is nowhere for them to go where You are not.”

True beauty lies within the source of Beauty. “Ad fontes,” cried the Renaissance man. “To the sources,” says the Born-again man. Look, therefore, not in gifts given, but the Giver who gives us Himself. That’s why in marriage, the most beautiful thing isn’t the wedding party. It’s not even the ring! No, it’s where the Bridegroom and Bride give up themselves for each other. The image of the marriage feast is perhaps the best one to describe the relationship between God and His People. That is True Beauty.

St. Augustine of Hippo, pray for us.

*Augustine, Aurelius. Confessions. Ed. F.J. Sheed. 2nd Ed. Book Two, ch. V-VI. pgs. 30-32. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2006.

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