Tuesday, July 31, 2012

virtue is...

Ah, beauty. We’re tempted to pluck a couple more eyebrow hairs, worry about the color of our shirts, look in the mirror one more time. Or, under the guise of being modest and counter-cultural, we don shapeless denim jumpers, long skirts and tennis shoes, thwarting any glance that might come our way.

Either way, every other woman we see is more beautiful than we are. Oh, I want to be like her, we feel. We pretend we don’t care – beauty is vain and frivolous, and we are mature women, not vain and frivolous women. Our own beauty doesn’t matter, we tell ourselves. We’re above that.

Oh, but it does matter. And it’s impossible to shake this desire because God gave us our beauty to cultivate, not to worry about or smother. The world needs beauty, especially feminine beauty. As women, we have not just permission but a mission to fill the world with beauty.

Beauty invites. Just try to walk past a sunset without noticing, through a forest trail without wondering, into an art gallery without pausing. Beauty beckons: “Come and see, and be at peace.” It lifts our minds and hearts. It humbles us and takes us outside of ourselves.

Doesn’t the world need this? Couldn’t the average American stand to have his mind and heart lifted, to be humbled and taken outside of himself?

A beautiful, virtuous woman unwittingly proclaims “virtue is beautiful.” Her visible beauty attracts beholders to the invisible beauty of virtue. It’s not a matter of “I look great, and you’ll look like me if you do these certain things,” the empty promise of many clothing and jewelry advertisements. It’s not about looking better than other women or about the woman's body but rather Christ. A woman’s beauty invites, and if she is virtuous, her life points to Christ. Sunsets and forest glades, while good, can only vaguely point up. A life lived virtuously points squarely at God. Beauty draws others into that life in Christ.

Not one of us has a perfect body, and not one of us is exempt from the belief that a different color here or different shape there would improve things tremendously. But we have all been endowed undeservedly with feminine beauty. Let’s accept this gift the way we want our own gifts accepted by others – enjoyed and cultivated, not worried over or neglected. Let’s stop fretting about our looks, an attitude that proclaims “virtue is uncertain,” and instead gratefully accept the beauty God has given us. Let’s find clothes that complement our bodies without overemphasizing our sexuality. Let’s get cute haircuts, for pete’s sake. And let’s throw out the shapeless jumpers, the thoughtless clothes that smother this gift of beauty and proclaim that virtue is frumpy.

Then let’s live in such a way that everything we do points to Christ and magnifies him. Let our every action say “He that is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

All you who seek to honor these doors,
Marvel not at the gold and expense but at the
Craftsmanship of the work.
The noble work is bright, but, being nobly bright, the work
Should brighten the minds, allowing them to travel through the lights
To the true light, where Christ is the true door.
The golden door defines how it is imminent in these things.
The dull mind rises to the truth through material things,
And is resurrected from its former submersion when the light is seen.
-from the door of the abbey of Saint-Denis