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MONDAY OF LENT WEEK 2

The medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas, called beauty ‘a kind of knowledge’. Dostoevsky famously said that ‘beauty will save the world’. More personally and so less abstractly, would you agree with me that when we find anything beautiful we love it? Could you call to mind for a moment a few things that can awaken this sense of beauty in you? I find there’s often there’s a big element of surprise when something we didn’t think special reveals the reassuring news that beauty does live in the world even if we cannot always see it.     
 
For example, a person who is doing something for you as part of their paid work. When some people some to help you they look as if they are being forced to and wish you would pay and go away quickly. Others do their task efficiently and with courtesy but without personalising it. Occasionally there is someone who for some magical reason makes you feel the presence of selflessness. It is their own presence but also something shines through their manner with a relaxed, super-confident yet totally uncoercive kindness that for a while makes you feel a  happier and a better person simply because another human being is relating to you in this way.
 
For the sceptics among us, there may also be unconscious reasons for this – the person reminds you of someone you like or are attractive in other ways. But these factors wouldn’t explain the sense of grace. This means an energy or presence which has an impenetrable motive, which is a sign of it being pure goodness, agapic love.
 
It is ‘beautiful’ and effortless. In works of art that touch you deeply and bestow a perspective on the world which is obvious but surprising, familiar and yet fresh – whether it’s in music, a novel, poetry, painting or film or a child’s drawing - beauty is always felt as effortless. The ego and the creative labour of the artist have been absorbed fully in the final work.
 
Beauty is a manifestation of grace. It is as present around us always as oxygen. Beauty was only created once: it is a window opening onto the timeless. But it is the essential nature of all things and every person. This is why it can emerge suddenly anywhere.
 
That is part of the work of Lent to sensitise ourselves, despite the daily news and the disharmony around us, to the beauty in which we live and move and have our being.
 

Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2024
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