Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Pinterest Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr Connect on YouTube

A Short Reflection on Beauty

August 15, 2017

It is common to link the good, the true, and the beautiful; this is proper because truth is beautiful and a very high good. But as with most insights, some distinctions are necessary, because while truth is always beautiful, not everyone or everything that appears to be beautiful is thereby true.

St. Augustine comments on this, saying,

Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses beauty even to the wicked (The City of God, XV, 22).

Essentially, St. Augustine is distinguishing physical beauty from spiritual beauty, teaching us that we can become too focused on lesser beauty and thereby neglect higher beauty and goods.

Physical beauty, though defined somewhat differently by different people, does exist and is a gift of God to behold. It is possible, however, to esteem it too much, failing to realize that spiritual beauty — truth, goodness, holiness, and God Himself — is a far greater gift. God signals the limits of physical beauty by sometimes bestowing it on those who seem undeserving, in order to teach us that it is a limited and often transitory good.

Scripture cautions, Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is praised (Proverbs 31:30). Both men and women are cautioned that charm and physical beauty, while pleasant, can easily deceive us into concluding too much. In our highly visual and noisy culture we are too easily influenced by the views of movie stars, singers, sports figures, and others among the cultural elite. Swayed by the fact that they are attractive, or sing beautifully, or act well, we too easily ascribe intellectual and moral authority to them which they have not merited.

St. Augustine continues,

And thus beauty, which is indeed God’s handiwork, but only a temporal, carnal, and lower kind of good, is not fitly loved in preference to God, the eternal, spiritual, and unchangeable good.

The problem is not with beauty but with us.

So, Augustine adds,

When the miser prefers gold to justice, it is through no fault of the gold, but of the man; and so with every created thing.

Enjoy the good things of God, but never in preference to the very God who made them. In our fallen condition, we are easily deceived by beauty. As St. Augustine notes, the problem is not in the beauty; the problem is in us. Stay sober, my friends!

Filed in: God • Tags:

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Richard Connell says:

    It is my prayer that myself, the author of this blog, and all the other readers of this blog take its final words to heart: Stay sober, my friends!