I'm altering the blog again (I know, I know - it's a learning process, folks); I will not be posting every Wednesday according to a set schedule of topics. I will simply post whenever I have something to talk about.
Today's topic: Beauty
No, I'm not talking about celebrities.
Beauty is a topic I've been thinking about (in conjunction with art) for quite some time. In college, it bugged me that the English department was in the ugliest building on campus. A few years ago, I took a page from my brother Ben's book and started collecting works of art as souvenirs whenever I traveled. Two of my favorite Sara Groves songs are about beauty.*
Yesterday I took a walk at sunset. It was a beautiful day; sunny, nearly cloudless, warm for February. I live part-way up a hill and if I go to the top and round a corner, this is what I see on nice evenings:
|Yeah, it's tough living in the Pacific Northwest.|
I have always been a fan of the beauty of nature, and particularly of mountains and fast-moving rivers. Growing up, this was pretty much the only beauty I cared about. These days, I also appreciate the beauty of the visual arts, the performance arts, music, and the written word. I am attracted to the beauty of the Gospel more and more.
I have also found myself more attracted to liturgy in recent years. I've considered getting Advent candles for the last two Christmases, and I'm observing Lent** this year for the first time ever (apparently it started today).
Today was also Ash Wednesday. I have never been to an Ash Wednesday service; I hardly know what it is, but I was disappointed when I discovered that although the church up the road has an Ash Wednesday service, I was not going to be available to attend. I don't know what goes on in an Ash Wednesday service, but if it's anything like Maundy Thursday, I'd like to find out.
I had never even heard of Maundy Thursday until 2007. I was attending Park Street Church in Boston, and they held a special service. My brother Steven was going, and I figured I ought to, as well, though I will admit I wasn't super excited. It turned out to be the most moving service I had ever experienced. Unfortunately, Park Street remains the only church I have ever been to that observed Maundy Thursday. I miss it every year.
There can be great beauty in liturgy.
The same church up the road that has an Ash Wednesday service (Calvin Presbyterian) is one that I pass quite often. I drive past it on my way to work and church, and although I have a variety of walking routes, most of them start out passing this building. And yet, somehow I never noticed the stained glass windows.
I'd seen them, of course, but I'd never thought about them at all until yesterday. The windows are small, so I stopped to take a closer look. When I did so, I realized that I had been overlooking a small treasure. Not only are there seven beautiful displays in stained glass, there is a whole courtyard, complete with garden plants, a couple of sitting areas with benches, and a simple water feature with a Bible verse.
I looked around for a bit, then continued on my way. I got about twenty steps and turned around to go back. I sat and contemplated the windows from a bench by the water feature. I took in the beauty of the courtyard, feeling quite content. I stayed several minutes, just enjoying my surroundings. When I went home, it was still in my head - I grabbed my notebook and headed back again. It was lovely, and I even wrote a pretty terrible poem^ about it while I sat there.
I will be going back whenever I can. I feel very fond of this church for its courtyard; just a pretty little nook, welcoming me in.
Beauty in its various forms is a wonderful thing. A refreshment for the soul, a counterpoint to the darkness in the world, and a gift from God. We need more of it in our lives.
*Add to the Beauty and Why It Matters.
**Albeit in ignorance. All I know about Lent is giving something up for the duration. I am abstaining from chocolate. This is a big deal.
^But, hey - I wrote. Not every poem turns out.