It’s summertime — a good time to lean back from the routine of our busy lives and to enjoy friends and family. It can be a time for refreshment and renewal too – a time to be open to the goodness of God in creation. Leisure time provides the opportunity to recall the many ways that God speaks through beauty – in creation, in persons, even in us.
If the pursuit of beauty is appealing to you this summer, you may find that your appreciation of something beautiful may not be shared. As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” What is beautiful to one person may be ugly to another. Trash along the roadside is ugly to most of us; but trash, arranged in a modern art gallery, may be considered beautiful or at least art with a message. Dropping the lid of a grand piano may be a shocking, unpleasant noise; or it might be an integral part of a John Cage musical composition. Cage sought to break down the barrier between “art” and “non-art” maintaining that all sounds are of interest. One composition calls for 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence…time when whatever sound is going on around the listener becomes part of the composition – a siren, a bird call, or a belch.
This approach to art and beauty makes one wonder where beauty can or cannot be found. In religious circles there is often an attempt to distinguish between the sacred and the profane – the things that enhance our appreciation of the holiness of God and those things that distract us. For some the difference between the sacred and profane is significant. But for others, holiness and the beauty of God can be found in all things, even in things considered ugly or imperfect.
The Celtic tradition that dominated Great Britain and Ireland from the third century into the ninth minimizes distinctions between the sacred and profane. Its legacy sees creation as essentially good. And the role of the Church is not to be a custodian of salvation, dispensing salvation according to restrictive rules of a hierarchical institution, but rather as a liberator to give access to the treasure of God’s goodness that is at the very heart of all life. It is available even in the ordinariness of our lives. Any time is a good time to touch, feel, and taste the presence of God in love relationships and in creation, even in things considered ugly.
Redemption is about being reconnected to the beauty that has been planted at the heart of all being. The challenge for us is to accept our true identity – to be brought back to a place of beauty…to the God who dwells within us. As Jesus said, “The kingdom is within you.”
Acceptance of this gift is critical to the acceptance of others. By receiving it for ourselves we are more likely to see good in others. Without that awareness, instead of seeing beauty in others, we tend to focus on their flaws. Somehow we need to remember that we were created in beauty…that God dwells in us…that Love is luring us to hear the “heartbeat of God”. It is the beat of Beauty without which nothing that is would be.”
As you take leisure time this summer, I hope that you will find refreshment for your souls by reawakening the heartbeat of God in your life. Become as if a child again and enjoy the delicate form and color of a flower. When you walk through a field, don’t fail to notice the color purple. Open yourself to a new awareness of the beauty of God in all things, even in those things covered by a disguise.