Last week, when we students spent five days at an inn just on the edge of the Thames, we took a Sunday ramble. We ended along the river just at dusk. As the others wandered nearer the water, I set off for a moment alone. A fat, lordly moon climbed the sky as I slushed through muddy grass. His buttery glow mingled with the last pink of the sun. The mesh of their light was a faint brush over the wet blue of sky that comes at the end of a warm winter's day. I came to a one-railed bridge over a streamlet of the Thames and stopped. A tough, tiny tree canopied the bridge. Moss velveted its trunk and its branches curled into the dusk like wisps of smoke. The stream beneath me brought a slow, langorous movement to the night, its surface a mirror to the sky with the braid of the river reeds as its frame.
I knew, as I held my body still and honed my mind and sight and thought to a full perception of all before me, that I was attended by Beauty. Not merely beautiful things, but rather a gathering of beauties whose sum created a single, powerful presence. Beauty like that is, I believe, a spiritual presence demanding a response from my soul. It is one facet of God's incarnational presence in the world, drawing me back to his reality, his ever-with-me attention. To encounter it, is to encounter truth; the fact of it requires some turning from me, I cannot be neutral in my response. Either I deny its power, or I allow myself to be reoriented by its grace.
I have always known that beauty had the power to drive me to holiness. For me, the ache for what is transcendent, the hunger spurred in me by art, literature, music, nature, has always been a guide that turned me back from distraction, from hurry, even from sin, to the grace of my ever-present God.
I am more aware of Beauty here in England than I have been for awhile. The change of scene, the sharpness with which new impressions and places hit my senses livens me to watch, to listen, to simply be aware. I have lived much of my last year in a hurry of mind, a distraction of spirit that has been entertaining, but left me disoriented in my walk with God. I have needed to be silent, to watch, to come up against minutes of great, demanding Beauty such as I found the other night.
May Beauty find you today as well.