A Parable About Beauty

Deal W. Hudson

A man once asked a Christian friend where he could find the Truth. The friend replied without hesitation, “Look to Jesus Christ who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

A woman once asked a Christian friend where she could find the Good. The friend quickly replied, “Look at the life of Jesus Christ who is “the Word made flesh.”

A young couple once asked a Christian friend where they could find Beauty.  The friend hesitated to answer. Not knowing what to say, he said, “Well, I find the greatest beauty in nature and in the works of the great painters and composers.”

The man and the woman went away satisfied and curious to learn more about Jesus Christ.

The couple went away dissatisfied because they already knew about beautiful paintings, beautiful music, and the beauty of nature.  They wanted to know what was behind all the beauty they beheld.

Thinking that Christians could not help them answer their question, they asked other people where to find Beauty itself. Everyone told them about about the things they considered beautiful, but scoffed at the idea of Beauty itself.

The couple became unhappy that they could not find an answer; they were desperate to find out why their lives were filled with joy when they encountered beautiful things. “Surely,” they said to each other, “the power of these beautiful things must come from something beyond any one of them.”

As time passed, the couple gradually found their enjoyment of beautiful things started to wane. The beauty of this film or that piece of music gave them temporary joy, but it soon gave way to a deepening sorrow. They started to avoid the beautiful things that once had given them joy, because now they felt only sadness. Everything beautiful left them wondering about what they were looking for but had never found.

The couple decided to take a last visit, a goodbye visit, to the museum they loved most, in fact, where they had met and fallen in love. As they entered their favorite room of paintings, they were surprised to see an elderly priest, wearing a beret, standing and staring at the picture where they had met. They stood behind him for a while and looked at one another, knowing they each had the same question to ask.

“Father,” the husband asked, gently touching his arm, “can we ask you a question?” The priest slowly turned around, a broad smile filled his face when he saw the couple. “Of course, ask me whatever you want, but remember I’m an old man and don’t have many answers.”

The priest’s words put the couple at ease. Then the husband looked at his wife, and she asked the question they had stopped asking long ago, “Where can we find Beauty itself, not beautiful things, we know where they are — right here, as a matter of fact — but where their power comes from, the power they all have in common?”

The priest’s eyes glistened as he heard the question, and he heaved an almost imperceptible sigh of relief, as if this was a question he had been waiting to hear all his life. He asked the couple to follow him into the next room where there were fewer people and less noise. He pointed to a corner where no one was standing.

He asked, “I get the impression you have asked this question before but not found a satisfactory answer?” The husband answered, “yes,” and then told the priest the entire story, including the growing sadness in their lives. “So let me be clear, you did ask this question to Christians, and they told you to go to museums, concerts, movie theaters, and the like?” “Yes, Father,” they replied.

For a moment, the priest’s own face grew dark, as if he was cursing something far away, but catching himself he smiled again and spoke very softly and slowly: “It saddens me that you have gone so long without an answer to your question. I’m sorry to admit that too often Jesus is not allowed to answer when it comes to questions about Beauty.”

The couple reached out and held each other’s hand, a gesture the priest noticed, and reaching out he put his hand on top of theirs drawing them all closer together. “Let me tell you something,” he said, “You have shown me Beauty today, a beauty greater than any of the paintings in this museum, the beauty of two people unashamedly hungry for God. Because God and His Son answer your question.”

The couple were touched by the priest’s kind words but did not yet understand what he’d meant by his answer. “Father,” said the wife, “how can Jesus and His Father be the answer to our question about Beauty”?

“Beauty, like the Good and the True, are perfections of our being, of all being, do you know what I mean by that?” the priest asked. The husband answered, “Truth and goodness, we understand, but isn’t Beauty something subjective, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder?” and he smiled.

“Beauty, indeed, does come through the eyes, and it is beheld by the senses, that is true,” said the priest. “But it’s not subjective, no more subjective than truth or goodness, which come from God through his creation. Beauty, too, was part of His creation, because God Himself is perfect Beauty.”

The couple looked stunned, they both looked at the priest, then each other. Nothing else needed to be said, because their faces shown with their understanding. “Thank you, Father,” said the wife. “We are so grateful to have met you here and for answering our question.”

Father squeezed their hands and slowly let go, saying, “You have my blessing, but more importantly all beautiful things you love will no longer bring you sadness but the fullness of joy. All I ask you to do is tell others, ”Look to Jesus Christ not only for truth and goodness, but for Beauty: The unity of all three in Christ creates a splendor that illumines the Truth and draws every person towards the Good.”

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