Calling Out the Beauty in Others

 

"Unless we look at a person and see the beauty there is in this person, we can contribute nothing to him. One does not help a person by discerning what is wrong, what is ugly, what is distorted. Christ looked at everyone he met, at the prostitute or the thief, and saw the beauty hidden there. Perhaps it was distorted, perhaps damaged, but it was beauty none the less,
and what he did was to call out this beauty.
"

This challenging quote from Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh of blessed memory summarizes the worldview and mission that we Orthodox Christians should have -  to first see God’s beauty all around us and in everyone we meet, and then to call forth that beauty from everything and everyone.

We live in an impure world where it seems so much easier to focus on the negative, to point out the evil and darkness and impurity all around us. In fact, our impure hearts and minds often lead us to question and doubt even that which is most pure and beautiful. Our fallen nature and fallen world tempt us to focus on the darkness and evil all around us. That is why we see so many people tear down others, and concentrate on what is negative and evil.

And yet, as Christians, we know that Christ is the Light of the world. He has brought Divine Light into the world. Jesus has overcome and conquered evil. Christ is Risen and death no longer has the final say. At Christmas, which we celebrated several weeks ago, we remembered how goodness and divine love became incarnate and came into the world, and although the evil of the world tried to diminish it and even extinguish it, goodness and love still prevailed!

This theme is repeated in another way in today’s Gospel reading. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,” the evangelist Matthew writes, “and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned!”

Divine Light has come into the world! Divine Light which helps us see beauty within everyone and everything! This divine light is celebrated in the Feast of Lights, “ta fota” which is what we often call the feast of Epiphany in Greek. This past Wednesday, on January 6th, when we celebrated the Epiphany of our Lord, we not only remembered that Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan, but more importantly the hymns of the feast noted that a “theophany” occurred – God appeared to the world!

Remember, Christ’s baptism was the starting point of His public ministry. After the first Christmas, 30 years passed, and nothing seemed to come from that miraculous birth of the Christ child. Jesus quietly lived the humble life as a carpenter in the small town of Nazareth. Yet after 30 years, Jesus comes to be baptized by the Prophet and Forerunner John, and then is ready to begin publicly proclaiming that “the kingdom of God is at hand!” The feast of Epiphany is called the Feast of Lights because it marks the beginning of Jesus, the Light of the World, publicly beginning His messianic mission. In Christ the reign of God has come and we no longer have to live in darkness. The kingdom of God is here, and we can now begin living in and experiencing this kingdom of love and light and goodness!

Of course, even though this Divine Light comes into the world, people are still free to choose how they want to live. Will they enter into the Light of God and live lives of light, or will they choose to ignore Christ’s light and continue living in darkness? Will we allow our Lord Jesus to come and purify our minds and hearts, so that we see everything with purity of heart? Or will we reject and ignore Christ, and continue living in the darkness of the world?

In Genesis, remember how God created all things good? Metropolitan Anthony’s quote at the beginning of this sermon reminds us that God’s original beauty and goodness still lie within all things and all people He created. His goodness and beauty may be covered up by the evil of the world, they may be distorted or even damaged, but God’s goodness and beauty still exist in everyone and everything. The mission of our Orthodox Faith is to bring out this beauty, “to bless all things and by doing so, to participate with God synergetically in the recreation of the entire universe.”

On reflecting on this passage from Metropolitan Anthony, Fr. Anthony Hughes says, “We have no time to meditate on darkness or on the evil that lives in this world. That is the work of the devil. We have the heart only to see goodness and to rejoice in it. This is the meaning of the scripture that says, “To the pure all things are pure.” Impure hearts see darkness in everything, and even rejoice in this darkness. Let that not be so of us. Let us participate every moment of our lives in the calling out of the beauty of creation, of our neighbors, of our friends and even our enemies. Let us call out the beauty especially within ourselves!”

What a beautiful lesson with which to begin our new year! If you want a challenging, yet blessed new year’s resolution, why not make one where you will try to see the beauty and goodness that exists in everyone you meet. Each person with whom you come into contact, make it a point to notice his/her good traits, his/her inner beauty, and say something, or do something that will nourish that beauty, say something or do something that will bring forth the divine beauty from that person!

Remember, each person you meet, no matter how difficult he or she may be, each person was created in the image and likeness of God. Nothing can fully take away that divine image. Now maybe a person’s sinful ways and evil choices distort or damage that image of God within them, yet what can we do to help this person rediscover and restore their own divine image? What can we do to help bring out the divine beauty that lies hidden within them?

"Unless we look at a person and see the beauty there is in this person, we can contribute nothing to him. One does not help a person by discerning what is wrong, what is ugly, what is distorted. Christ looked at everyone he met, at the prostitute or the thief, and saw the beauty hidden there. Perhaps it was distorted, perhaps damaged, but it was beauty none the less,
and what he did was to call out this beauty.
"

May we all work together with our Lord, throughout this new year, to bring out the divine beauty in ourselves and in others!

Happy New Year!

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