A Letter from Sister Geraldine Klein
“Beauty will save the world.” Ever since I read this quotation I have been wondering who said it because it spoke a very welcome word to me. I have known experiences and times when beauty in nature eased my anxiety or filled me with joy and peace. I relish the sight of something “beautiful”.
Well, I found who said it by asking the trusty (at least much of the time) internet. It was a line from Dostoevsky’s novel, The Idiot, and attributed to Prince Myskin, a prince and an epileptic Russian nobleman. I learned that in my attraction for the quotation I was in good company. Both Pope John Paul II in his Letter to Artists and Pope Benedict XVI in his “Meeting with Artists” have used the quotation to point out how important it is for human life to have the companionship of beauty.
However, beauty does not automatically over take our minds and hearts and be our companion. St. Augustine, in his contemplation of creation concluded that, “Beauty appears to all in the same way, but is silent to one and speaks to the other…. They understand it who compare the voice received on the outside with the truth that lies within.” [From The Confessions of St. Augustine] How do we get to that “truth that lies within”?
My attraction with beauty saving the world intersects with another very current, urgent call to us in our day: care for creation, care for Mother Earth. A friend of mine told me about a reflection by Chris Donovan she found on the website for Carmel of Reno. Please, look it up. It is what we need to hear. It is a reflection Chris Donovan calls “Awakening Hope”. It surely awakened mine.
Recalling that we humans used to be in rhythm with all of creation, she points out that “there was a time when everything around us taught us everything we needed to know.” And so, she says, “…the voice of each (creature and Earth) was speaking depth to depth offering a mystical connection to the Sacred.” But, please take note: she says, “…the spirit of a common bond is awakened, as the voice of suffering permeates the air.” The paradox of the companionship of beauty and suffering enters in.
Beauty points to goodness and truth. Pope Benedict says, “Authentic beauty… unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence.”
Pope Benedict speaks of “authentic” beauty because we know that beauty can also be fraught with vain pursuits of self. These cannot lead to the Other or even the other. They are focused on self. Does it explain some of the narcissism of our society — it’s all about me? Can we find our rhythm with all of creation again by finding beauty and hearing the voice that speaks within?
What a wonderful return to care, not only for creation, but for one another if we again found that rhythm and wonder of beauty. There would be more peace on earth, good will to all. It wouldn’t just be the song of the angels but it would be our song too. I hope your Christmas is one more step to finding that voice.
Enjoy our Sisters’ Journey – December 2021