Monday, June 11, 2012
What Is Beauty?
The example of Lady Diana brings into sharp focus the question "what is beauty?" In particular, does it consist essentially of the flawless features of a Venus? Or does it consist essentially of what St. Peter called "the hidden person of the heart" (1 Pt. 3:4)? Our own culture opts unabashedly for the first view, and glorifies outer beauty. An entire industry has developed to secure and preserve such beauty--creams like "Oil of Olay" which promise unfading allure, surgical nips and tucks, face lifts for the elimination of wrinkles, Botox injections for a more classical face, breast implants. In the Hollywood culture, all this warfare against the appearance of aging is not called "surgery"; it is merely called, "having some work done", as if such radical procedures were all in a day's work, like giving the car a tune-up before a trip
As the disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to opt for the view advanced by St. Peter, and recognize true beauty when we encounter it. Oils and Botox and surgeries notwithstanding, we are all of us hurtling headlong toward death and disintegration, and whatever cosmetic help we avail ourselves of along the way will not save us. Lady Diana did indeed look beautiful in her early photos, like that presented above. Should we look on her exhumed outer form now (not to put too fine a point on it) she would look rather less ravishing than before. All outer beauty fades; the true beauty does not. "The imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit" mentioned by St. Peter survives the ravages of time, and the inexorable grave. It is to this beauty that God calls all of us. And it is this beauty which calls forth the admiration of our heavenly Bridegroom: in the Song of Songs, He speaks to His bride and says, "You are altogether beautiful, my love, and there is no flaw in you" (Songs 4:7). As members of the Bride of Christ, it is this beauty for which we should strive.