Beauty. We long to gaze upon it. We long to be “beautiful” ourselves. I googled: “What is true beauty?” And you know what I found? Nothing about a person’s virtue, nothing about the goodness of the human heart, nothing about one’s per- sonality or attitude, and surely nothing about the Transfigured Christ. What I found were descriptions of cutting, waxing, col- oring, clipping, plucking, straightening, dressing, shaving, curling, and of course the latest styles. What I found was how much time we are supposed to spend in front of the mirror. What I found was: Vanity. Appearances. Idol worship of the human body. Supposedly, that is “true beauty.” We judge the book by its cover. It’s of course untrue and unwise, but we place a great weight of importance on first impressions. In truth, first impressions offer a fast – and mostly visual – assumption of someone. Appearances can be all that we see and it becomes our Achilles’s heel; we fail to see beauty in another person.
So where does true beauty come from? Where can it be found? I can assure you it isn’t hidden in the words of any diet or fitness magazine. It’s not adorned with perfect hair or adulated by exposing skin. It doesn’t come included with jewelry or clothes. You won’t find it on a treadmill or in the weight room. It seems our goal in life, consciously or unconsciously is attempting to stop time and the inevitable progress of nature. It is a fight no human being, man or woman, can win. My beauty, your beauty isn’t dependent upon “appearances” – who we would like to be, or how we are perceived by others.
It’s dependent solely upon what God wants us to be. And when we see that beauty, we want to act beau-ti-ful … not in appearances, but living fully in the image and likeness of God. True beauty is the extent of how much we internalize the life of Christ within our being.
St. Thomas Aquinas long ago provided the definition for “beauty.” Three conditions or elements are necessary for something to be beautiful. These conditions are present at Christ’s Transfiguration. First, there must be integrity. Second, there must be proportion. And third, there must be radiance or clarity. Together, they make the Transfiguration a preeminent moment of beauty that proclaims the divinity of Christ in a manner that readies us for the Resurrection by way of the Passion. We need this experience of eternal beauty in order to become transfigured ourselves, so that our souls can communicate worthily with God, knowing in advance about what is to come. The only means to resurrection is via the Passion. The Transfig- uration, then, fortifies us to see “the beauty of Jesus” in all the trials and struggles of the 40 days of Lent. During Lent, may we recognize that the beauty of our spiritual life demands integrity, proportion and clarity that flow uniquely from our union with the mind of God.