‘When we awaken to the call of beauty, we become aware of new ways of being in the world. Beauty offers us refreshment, elevation and remembrance of our true origin and real destination. Our deepest self-knowledge unfolds as we are embraced by Beauty.’ – John O’Donahue, Irish Poet
Humans are Icons of Beauty. We just have to believe the words spoken over us by God at our inception, ‘Let us make humans in our own image.’ Unfortunately, and sadly we humans tend to see the Beast in each other, before the Beauty. The masks we wear that hide our true selves betray the essence of our humanity, leaving us hiding in the shadows, afraid to come out into the light for fear of exposure.
This idea is portrayed in the all-time classic movie, Beauty and the Beast. Belle, a dreamy introvert and hopeless romantic, happiest in her books and conversations with nature finds herself trapped in a dungeon, in the Castle of a Beast. The Beast, who was once a handsome prince had a spell cast over him because of his unwillingness to be kind and extend mercy. The ugliness of those inner choices took over his lovely exterior and he became a grotesque form of a creature. Belle, who over time began to see the beauty underneath this rough exterior allowed the Beast to soften, to love and to extend kindness to her, breaking the spell that held him captive to his false self, and, as fairy tales have it, they lived happily ever after!
Humans are a paradox. We live with the two faces of Beauty and the Beast. A distorted image has enveloped us as we have refused to embrace our true nature. We wear our inner fears and struggles like a mask, projecting them onto others, creating barriers between us. Humanity was not designed for this, rather we were invited to be ones who image God, outworked in our love for each other and stewardship of our common home.
The Advent Story is one of Incarnation. God became human and lived among us, showing and reminding us how to be human, good and beautiful creatures.
There is a poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins called ‘As Kingfishers Catch Fire,’ that presents the lovely idea that Creation knows how to live out of it’s natural design, and also reminds humans of the same, captured by these words in the last verse,
'I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is –
Christ – for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his,
To the Father through the feature’s of men’s faces.’
Be Beautiful. It’s in your nature.