The Catholic Lady: Desiring Beauty

Source: The Catholic Lady: Desiring Beauty
 Beautiful clothing encourages us to contemplate God in the beauty and order of the universe.
Painting by Frank Weston Benson.

Wow! Sometimes I run across something that is, if not exactly and completely new to me, at least allows me to look at things in a new and exciting way. This is such a post! The Catholic Lady writes,

“Beauty, as St. Thomas says, is objective and has four attributes: truth, goodness, oneness and symmetry.  Beauty, when comprised of these qualities, directs us to God.”

This I had missed – I am not a Thomistic scholar, though, so there’s probably a lot in The Angelic Doctor’s writings that I’ve missed. It makes perfect sense, though, as St. Thomas Aquinas’s thought tends to. Reminds me of the Three Transcendentals – Goodness, Truth, and Beauty – which are all attributes of the “Ultimate Transcendental,” namely, God! At any rate, she goes on to ask,

“But what is the style of Christian civilization?

And answers:

“The style at the heights of Christian civilization is undeniably beautiful and uplifting to the spirit. It directs the soul to God rather then confining it to superficial worldly indulgence.”

Yes – that is one of the chief virtues of the great cathedrals, Gregorian chant, and other exemplars of classical Christian art: they lift the thoughts, the attention, the heart, and through them, the spirit, to the contemplation of heavenly things. But I hadn’t thought of applying the same reasoning to clothing styles – yet it makes so much sense:

“Beautiful clothing encourages us to contemplate God in the beauty and order of the universe. It represent the supernatural virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance. These virtues combined with the desire in our souls to do good and avoid evil, govern Christian society and also form the basis of beautiful design. Beauty is literally graceful because it comes into our lives through the infusion of Supernatural virtue.”

“Beauty is literally grace-full” (emphasis added) – again, wow! True beauty is graceful, because it is full of God’s grace. And then she goes on to apply those Thomistic qualities to it – again, taking it to a level I had not contemplated, previously:

Truth can be seen in clothing that identifies the wearer as a man or woman, his status and occupation, even his character and family. Goodness is in the quality materials and fine workmanship, and in the modesty that respects the natural virtues. Oneness is in the completeness of the ensemble and the way it matches in an ordered way. Symmetry is the proportion, consistency and uniformity that comprise it.

“This can be applied to everything: music and architecture, furnishings in the home, work and crafts, words and manners, meals and dinner tables, beautiful prayers and good reading. Local traditions sustain cultural beauty in holidays, ceremonies and ways of being that began long ago when people turned to God and received a flow of grace to generations. This realization makes us love and keep alive tradition. Beauty is expressed in many cultures and is diverse since God’s creation is immense. However, beauty cannot go against the natural order.”

Indeed. Something which does, may (perhaps) be clever, or interesting, or thought-provoking, or challenging (or disturbing!), or something along those lines. But not beautiful.

“Beauty lifts the spirit above what is purely functional to the realm of spiritual satisfaction in our quest for the Supernatural.  How can we not constantly marvel at and reach for the heights of beauty to fill up our minds and souls with the contemplation of God?”

How can we not, indeed? Yet, like the modern taste-buds, that are so used to “hyper-palatable” foods laden with salt, sugar, MSG, etc., that they have to be re-trained to appreciate healthful foods and natural flavors, so our aesthetic sensibilities are often numbed almost to the point of becoming insensate by the images of modern media, both entertainment and advertising, with which they are constantly bombarded.

But this is encouraging. It’s worth being reminded that beauty is not, necessarily or entirely, “in the eye of the beholder”; that just as there are objective standards of truth and morality, there are also objective standards of beauty.

And once again, we see the Three Transcendentals – Truth, Goodness, and Beauty – inserting themselves into the conversation! That connection was not planned, not by me. But very apt, nonetheless! A moment of synchronicity… or, perhaps, of Divine Providence.

And with that, I shall close these musings, for the night!

Author: The Anglophilic Anglican

I am an ordained Anglican clergyman, published writer, former op-ed columnist, and experienced outdoor and informal educator. I am also a traditionalist: religiously, philosophically, politically, and socially. I seek to do my bit to promote and restore the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, in a world which has too-often lost touch with all three, and to help re-weave the connections between God, Nature, and humankind which our techno-industrial civilization has strained and broken.

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