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Detail from Winslow Homer, Farmer with a Pitchfork

Insights on Beauty

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Jacques Maritain

God is beauty itself, because he gives beauty to all created beings, according to the particular nature of each, and because he is the cause of all consonance and all brightness. … And every consonance or every harmony, every concord, every friendship and every union whatsoever among beings proceeds from the divine beauty, the primordial and super-eminent type of all consonance, which gathers all things together and which calls them all to itself.

Dorothy Day

We have been accused of taking a morbid delight in the gutter and worshiping ashcans. The fact of the matter is that God transforms it all, so that out of this junk heap comes beauty. We have poetry and painting and sculpture and music and all of these things for the delight of the senses that are given to us right in the midst of filth and degradation and mires so that I often feel we know whereof we speak. God certainly comes to the rescue over and over again and enables us to do what seems utterly impossible.

Basil of Caesarea

If sometimes, on a bright night, while gazing with watchful eyes on the inexpressible beauty of the stars, you have thought of the Creator of all things; if you have asked yourself who it is that has dotted heaven with such flowers, and why visible things are even more useful than beautiful … if you have raised yourself by the visible things to the invisible Being, then you are a well-prepared auditor. …

Truly, if such are the good things of time, what will be those of eternity? If such is the beauty of visible things, what shall we think of invisible things? If the grandeur of heaven exceeds the measure of human intelligence, what mind shall be able to trace the nature of the everlasting?

Annie Dillard

We are here to witness the creation and abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.


Sources: Jacques Maritain, Art and Scholasticism: With Other Essays (Scribner, 1923). Dorothy Day, “Fear in Our Time,” The Catholic Worker, April 1968, 7. Basil of Caesarea, Hexaemeron VI, “The Creation of Luminous Bodies,” in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 8, eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Eerdmans, 1989), 81–82. Annie Dillard, The Meaning of Life, ed. David Friend (Little, Brown, 1991).

Detail from Winslow Homer, Farmer with a Pitchfork

Winslow Homer, Farmer with a Pitchfork
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