Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"...where all the beauty comes from..."

Someone wrote the other day and at the end of the email this quote from C.S. Lewis was attached:
"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the find the place where all the beauty came from..." 

Maybe C.S. Lewis was looking over his shoulder as he pondered his life. But if we'd care to make the quote our own, we can frame it in the present tense; "...where all the beauty comes from..."

The sweetest thing. Language changes very quickly in the United States, so I may already be out of date, but only a short while ago, a young person would use the word sweet to express delight, surprise, approval or happiness. Admiring a new shirt, hair cut or pretty face, a young person would simply exclaim, "Sweet!"

C.S. Lewis is delighting in the very best aspect of his entire life - the sweetest thing, he says.

But then notice the sweetest thing of his life is not a person, possession, recognition or achievement - but a longing. Longing is an interior thing which suggest emptiness, like a refugee longing to return home. 

The word longing is a desire word - a deep desire to be filled, answered, resolved. Aching comes with longing. C.S. Lewis calls this longing, (this ache), the sweetest thing.

And while he says he's longing to find the place, we know it's not a geographical place. He doesn't expect the longing will be satisfied in an executive's office, a throne room, or inner chambers, but in an invisible place, a heart place, a spiritual or interior place where ultimates are encountered. 

Longing for the place where all the beauty comes from. Beauty is very hard to define because it isn't a commodity and "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," we say. And beauty comes and goes - like this flower that lasts only one day then it closes up in the evening and is gone. 

Maybe there's a beauty that lasts forever, and maybe that's God. But I'd suggest that for many of us who are living harried, fast-paced, inside-all-day lives, we might first start to recognize and enjoy the beauty that's before us right now:
  • the layered birdsong I hear through the open window
  • the glass of water on my desk; the cup of tea
  • the pick-ready black currants in the garden
  • the e-mail attached photo of children on vacation
  • the July peach
  • the scent of dill and strawberries in the produce section 
  • the 1940's black and white photo of my parents
  • the calendar print of the night-illumined church in the snow
  • And truth be told ~ we see an awful lot of beautiful people everyday and Bishop Fulton Sheen said, "Just because you look at the menu doesn't mean you have to order." 
"...the place where all the beauty comes from..." C.S. Lewis is wondering out loud. And wondering is much more at the heart of spiritual living than it is having an answer for every question. Some people haven't felt any longing in their inner lives since they were very young children. That's sad and a great personal loss.


  1. This really does make one stop and think about what beauty is really in our lives. Maybe we should all make a list like the one you have here and keep it close at hand. This way when you have a bad day, you just have to take it out and remember all the things that bring joy to your life, no matter how little they seem when you write them down. Thanks for making us stop and reflect on the important things.

  2. I always feel that beauty comes from within. The most beautiful people are the ones who do for others, who sacrifice their time to be helpful, who do the jobs that no one else wants to do, who care for their children without a thought for themselves, etc. God sees our true beauty because he made us. And my true longing is to know God better.

  3. Indeed! Here's a whole other angle and sooooo worth noting as the ugliness of humanity is so evident. Thanks for sharing this insight!

  4. A fine post Father. I enjoy reading your thoughts here. I was just a little surprised that you mention that you find seeing beautiful people enjoyable. I hope you are referring to people who are inwardly beautiful, for outside beauty is nothing more than a shell which will age and crack over time. Inner beauty is forever. I do appreciate your candor. I think it is very human to admit that a beautiful woman might catch your eye. How many priests would admit to this?

  5. Well, pity the priest who wouldn't acknowledge another's physical beauty. That doesn't signal lust. God made physically beautiful people which doesn't for a moment diminish one's interior beauty. Hence Bishop Sheen's quote. Of course people are beautiful on the outside. Isn't that how people are first attracted to each other and eventually come to be married? "She caught my eye..." the fellow says of the woman who becomes his wife. Even "across a crowded room...." Isn't there an old song about that? Priests who aren't candid wind up being removed from the rest of humanity.

  6. I see where you are coming from. And to respond to what you have said above, I just don't know any priests that are quite as frank and candid as you seem to be. Maybe they are afraid to show their that they have a human side to them. But then again, many lay people are like that also. Superficial and plastic. Thanks for not being afraid to speak out on these topics.

  7. These posts have opened my eyes to all the beauty that surrounds me. You have bought nature, art, prayer, literature and music to a new meaning. Tools to grow the heart and mind.

  8. "Nature, art, prayer, literature and music..." How blessed we are - for all the troubles and sadness in the world there is nature, art, prayer, literature and music.