Saturday, April 29, 2017

Beauty Draws us Out and Lifts us Up

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart”
-Ecclesiastes 3:11
Beauty invites us to step out of ourselves. Much of each day, our thoughts are centered on issues in our lives, solving problems, worrying about the future, stressing about this and that. In our fallen nature we are all prone to cave in on ourselves. On an ongoing basis, we need to be freed from such self-focus. We all need to get out of ourselves.
God pours out the grace needed for our deliverance from self-absorption. One key way that God gives us that grace is through beauty. When we see the splendor of a brilliant sunrise on our drive to work in the morning, we are invited to step out of our anxious thoughts of the day. We are welcomed to lay aside our all-too-often obsession regarding the frustrations awaiting us on our job.
In that glimpse of God’s glory, we are shown a bigger picture of reality than our daily grind: the Lord is in control of the universe, and he has jammed it with magnificence!
To behold this scene on the way to work is to step out of my little world and all its petty problems and anxieties. To hold on to the scene throughout the day is to allow my mind to be transformed so that it gains God’s perspective on life. The Lord is in control, he has filled the earth with beauty, and the life that he has given me is pure gift!
After drawing us out of ourselves, beauty draws us upward toward God. Whenever we see beauty, it lifts our hearts. Even if temporarily, we are able to let go of all that weighs on us and pulls us down. It lifts our minds from the mundane, and helps us see a much greater reality.
The great spiritual writer of the early sixth century, Pseudo-Dionysius, describes how God uses beauty and light as natural aids in lifting us up toward him. “Hence, any thinking person realizes that the appearances of beauty are signs of an invisible loveliness,” says Dionysius. “Material lights are images of the outpouring of an immaterial gift of light.”[1]
Beauty is something transcendent, and it draws us toward transcendence. Because all beauty is a reflection of the Creator, when we see the loveliness of creation, it draws us toward God. Ultimately, beauty lifts our spirits to the One who is Uncreated Beauty!
2017 © Glenn E. Myers
This series is Creation Proclaiming God’s Divine Nature, as Romans 1:20 declares, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

[1] Celestial Hierarchy, 121C-D, in Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works, translated by Colm Luibheid, Classics of Western Spirituality (New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1987), 146.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Holy Week & Triduum: Participating in Salvation History and Eternity

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
-Galatians 2:20
In Holy Week we participate in the event of our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his Last Supper, his Passion and Resurrection. These are not simply past events to be remembered, nor are we simply “reenacting” episodes from Jesus’ life. Rather, they are spiritual realities—eternal realities—in which we are invited to participate.
As we celebrate Palm Sunday and then the three days (Latin: Triduum) from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday, we participate in—indeed, partake of—these central events in Salvation History. 
The Christian life is all about our participating in Christ. Even toward the end of his life, the Apostle Paul prays “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10, emphasis added). The New Testament calls us to such participate in—share in—the saving work of God.
During Holy Week we participate in Salvation History. On Palm Sunday we participate in Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with shouts of Hosanna! Perhaps these were shouts of praise, but “Hosanna” ultimately is a prayer, a cry to God for help: “Save us!” Jesus, of course, will save them and us but in a way far different—are far more painful—than they expected.
On Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday we participate in the Lord’s Supper. On Good Friday we join Mary and the Apostle John around the cross and mystically share in Jesus’ dying. Beginning with baptism all believers participate in Jesus’ suffering, for we are “baptized into his death,” states Romans 6. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Dying to our old fallen nature and rising from the waters that buried that old self, we are called to live every day only for Christ. Along with Paul each of us is invited to say, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). How clear this reality becomes as we enter into that death with our Lord again each Good Friday!
Finally on Easter, we join with all the hosts of heaven as we sing, “Christ the Lord is risen today!” As we do so, we join afresh in the Resurrection. This is not simply a commemoration of the past, nor is it simply looking toward our future resurrection. It is both, but beyond that we truly share with Christ. We participate in this the central event of Salvation History. Moreover we share in eternity as, the last of Charles Wesley declares: “Ours the cross, the grave, the skies!”
© 2017 Glenn E. Myers