“Beauty will save the world.”
— Fyodor Dostoevsky
Revealing the deep connection between beauty, truth and love
We too seldom think of beauty as a spiritual virtue. Yet, there is a deep connection among beauty, truth and love. St. Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi to ponder the good, the true and the beautiful:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
In a violent and despairing world, pondering noble, pure and lovely things seems a luxury few can afford. Yet, the state of our world is precisely why an emphasis on beauty is so important. So much of what passes for normal today is but a twisted mocking of what it means to be human. We no longer have art, but anti-art; art divorced from truth and beauty, art that lies. We cannot merely stand against pornographic images that distort the truth of sexuality, the meaning of the body and relationships. We must offer something better, more beautiful and more true to the hunger people feel in their hearts.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. — Ecclesiastes 3:11
There is a strong theological argument in favor of art. Because God himself became an image in the form of Jesus–true God and true man– the door was opened for arts to flourish in the service of worship and the life of faith.
Yet, there have always been iconoclasts in the history of the Church. Centuries ago, they smashed artistic renderings found in churches. Today, they destroy art through miserable and meager depictions of Christians themes, creating little more than carnival trinkets anchored to Bible verses. It remains to be seen if beauty will save the world, as Dostoevsky claimed, but we can be sure that the ugliness masquerading so often as Christian art always serves as a poor witness to Christ before a skeptical world.
We must become spiritual patrons of the arts, insistent on redeeming truths that have been perverted. This is not a minor detail in the call of the Gospel. When we look at the brokenness of the world, we see clearly how Satan has attacked the very image of God–male and female, called to give themselves to each other fully in love. We cannot let that happen. As we hope will be evident throughout this site, the icon of married human love is a signpost pointing us ultimately to the love that God has for us. We’ve peppered our site with classic art in the hope of reorienting the eyes and hearts of our visitors upward into the heart of the Father, through whom all things were made, bright and beautiful. May we all be able to say with the Psalmist:
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
Copyright © 2013, Daniel Weiss. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
(Unless otherwise noted, we’ve drawn all images on this site from the rich collection found at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. These images are in the public domain and we are grateful for this generous sharing with the world.)