God is beauty, the theologians taught, and the universe is the irradiation of God’s beauty. We see a face of God in the natural beauty of the world around us. Augustine was clear: “It is desire for the beautiful,” he said, “that draws us to God.” But if that’s the case, the implication for the spiritual life stuns: To develop to our fullest, we must surround ourselves with beauty.Chittister, Joan. The Monastic Heart (p. 47). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
This is just one section of an amazing chapter of the newest book I’m reading, “The Monastic Heart” by Sister Joan Chittister. I read this chapter yesterday morning and it just keeps resonating with me 30 or so hours later. Rather than trying to use my words, I just want to share a few more quotes from this chapter and then some glimpses of beauty that I’ve seen in the last few days…Just soak up these holy words from Sister Joan.
[B]eauty becomes a tool of spiritual development, a necessary part of our ascent to God, another incarnation, another revelation of God among us.. (ibid, p 48)
Without the arts—architecture, sculpture, painting, literature, music, performance, and film—the soul dries up, the world goes dark. (Ibid, p. 48)
[So much of our world today] has hastened the death of the imagination. We start to die inside ourselves and never even know it. We cease to understand our nature as spiritual beings because there is nothing in the environment either to challenge our assumptions or to lift our hearts and minds, nothing to stir our souls to life again and newly again….It is beauty, in other words, that enables us to rise above the sordid in life and so to transform life from the inside out, to give it meaning, to give it feeling, to give it insight, to give it a vision of a better world. (Ibid, p. 49)
Beauty transports us. It refuses to be dull. It gives life to the lifeless—the hopeless—and changes the spiritual life from an experience of rules to an expression of awe. Artists give us new ways to see the unseeable, but it is monasticism that exists in pursuit of the beauty of the invisible God. It is the monastic heart in us, therefore, which, committed to seeking God, must cultivate the artistic spirit, nurture it, be keepers of it, re-create it. Art cleanses our senses of the mundane. It awakens us to see more than things, and beyond things to new insights about life, about new feelings, about a new sense of transcendence. It is up to you and me, then, to make art a sacrament of modern life. (Ibid, p. 49-50)
Yes. Yes. Yes.