This evening I sat with a friend on a few large rocks which extended out into a flowing creek. We remained in silence for several long minutes, pondering the scene in front of us: water, rocks, and trees. There was such beauty as the water flowed through the rocks, the green branches canopied around us, and the sound of the rushing stream calmed the soul. In my mind, a message rang true: this is a gift; this is for you.
There is clearly Someone behind the gift of beauty in tonight. That creek has been flowing for years, even on days when no one has been there to appreciate it. Yet, from all eternity, this divine Giver has been preparing my heart to receive the beautiful scene today.
My experience this evening is a small echo of what happens in the human heart every day. It reflects the many manifestations of beauty we find in our lives. Each time we encounter something beautiful, whether it be a painting, a flower, a poem, or an infant’s smile, we experience a gift. What better way to encounter a gift than to receive it wholeheartedly?
As women, we have been graced with a special gift of receptivity. The woman’s heart is open and ready to receive. This gift enables the woman to love and nurture. Even the small child identifies that the mother is there to receive both his wounded, scraped knees and his colored works of art. It is this gift of openness that enables us to recognize and notice even the smallest details of beauty. The woman’s heart is ready and yearning to receive the glimpses of beauty that penetrate so deeply into her being.
Perhaps, the feminine heart is also attracted towards beauty because not only does it allow her to fulfill her desire to receive but it further pushes her beyond herself. Beauty offers her the opportunity to encounter the Infinite, for whom her soul ultimately longs. In a letter to artists, Pope Benedict describes this reality:
“Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God” (Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with Artists)
Often we encounter the gift of beauty and love simply in existence. A flower comes to mind. While growing in the garden, the flower’s existence offers delight and joy. As a woman, I want to gaze at its beauty; I find joy in its color, in its freshness, in the scent, in its simplicity and order. I receive these qualities as a gift, often subconsciously, but receive them nonetheless.
The same happens when the woman gazes upon a beautiful painting. The colors, strokes, and images speak to her heart and she receives the joy in gratitude. In this situation, just as in the creek mentioned above, God is at work; He works through the instrument of the artist. He delights in offering such joy through beauty to His beloved, feminine hearts. Let us receive and take delight in the gifts of beauty we encounter today.