On Monday morning this past week, Fr. Scott and all his summer helpers were awake at 5:30 am for benediction. They had taken shifts the whole night adoring before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament at our summer retreat in North Carolina. Fifteen minutes after benediction, we celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 5:45 am Mass was not the result of a coincidence. We had chosen this time intentionally so that the sun would rise above the mountains, which we could see from the window behind the altar, during the consecration.
Needless to say, Mass was beautiful, and the sunrise helped all of us ‘lift up our hearts to the Lord,’ as the Priest commands the congregants at the beginning of the preface to the Eucharistic prayer. Why is it that beauty has this effect on us? Why does it draw us up into contemplation of the divine?
There is a philosophical/theological category called “the transcendentals.” To this category belongs truth, goodness, and beauty. These three things are so intertwined that when one is encountered near its perfection, the other are sure to be found with it. Something that is truly good must also be truly beautiful and truly real (i.e. true). God is Truth, God is Goodness, and God is Beauty. Therefore, anything that is true, good, or beautiful has its ultimate source in God, and therefore, it draws the attentive soul towards Him.
Upon encountering truth, such as the Nicene Creed, which we say at Sunday Mass, we are drawn up to God by knowing about Him. Upon encountering Goodness, for instance in an act of charity by a fellow Christian, we can feel our hearts being lifted up to God. And lastly Beauty can lift our souls to God as we encounter something that He created simply for His and our delight.
Beauty is powerful. Souls have been converted just by walking into a beautiful Church. As we strive towards our heavenly homeland, it is extremely helpful to surround ourselves with beauty, so we do not so easily forget the wonders that Beauty Himself has prepared for those who persevere.