If we look at our daily life and encounters with the eyes of the soul, we can see unexpected marvels: the kind face of an elderly person covered by wrinkles, each wrinkle indicating smiles, worries, tears and love, like a rock that has withstood the difficulties of a long life; the grateful smile of a sick person receiving visitors; the emotion of discovering love in the eyes of a teenager; the ecstatic face of a child playing with his father.
Goodness and beauty are difficult to define, because in the depth of our hearts they are both linked to God. They are two different expressions of the presence of God.
The connection between beauty, goodness and God has been explored in all human cultures by artists and spiritual writers alike. The Lebanese Christian poet Khalil Gibran wrote, with words reminiscent of the Gospel, “Beauty is that which attracts your soul, and that which loves to give and not to receive.” Beauty is a gift, and self-giving is the very nature of beauty.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI quoted Simone Weil, a French philosopher in the beginning of the 20th century, in a reflection he offered to the artists in November 2009. “In all that awakens within us the pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of God. There is a kind of incarnation of God in the world, of which beauty is the sign. Beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is possible. For this reason all art of the first order is, by its nature, religious.”
Indeed, beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is possible. In beauty, we can glimpse God, and what is beautiful points to God. True beauty opens the human heart to the deep desire to know more, to live better, to go beyond oneself and see the immense beauty of God. Then we understand why we are alive. That’s why beauty opens us up to goodness and truth.
Christian communities through the centuries knew this, and expressed their search for God in churches, paintings, sculptures. In the Western world, the greatest masterpieces in all the different arts were created to celebrate the life of Jesus. This is true also of other cultures and other religions.
We cannot do without beauty when we live, when we stay in a place, when we go to a work place, when we work for justice and peace. We should not renounce beauty when we speak and when we write, because the words when selected with care and love make the world more friendly and harmonious.
There is no doubt, beauty, real beauty, is a sign of the presence of God, it is goodness made visible. We can also say that goodness and beauty always go together. A gesture of goodness shines with beauty, and what is beautiful is good.
Love, goodness, beauty, truth, care, tenderness, togetherness are found in God at their purest level, yet occasionally shine through human beings: aren’t we made in the image of God? There are privileged moments when the human likeness with God becomes strikingly visible.
Beauty is a truth that makes us open to creation, to others, to God. Beauty is an opening to the infinite. Beauty is a way to raise our soul over the limited horizons of our lives—but to see it and understand it we have to overcome petty views and prejudices.
Pope Benedict, while addressing the artists in 2009, also said: “Authentic beauty unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence, the Mystery of which we are part; from this Mystery we can draw fullness, happiness, the passion to engage with it every day.”
We must keep our eyes open and limpid, clearing them from any prejudice, any tiredness, any resignation, so that they can see the beauty that will come to us every day, shocking us with its newness—and be prepared to say “thank God for the beauty, the goodness, the truth with which You have surrounded me”.