Many years ago I had the occasion to be near the shore of the Atlantic Ocean for a number of days. The weather had been dreadful most of the time I was there until the last night when the rain stopped and the clouds parted, revealing a beautiful full moon. Realizing that the rain had passed, I dashed out to the beach and took a walk along the shoreline. I remember being struck so deeply by the beauty of the moonlight reflected on the water that I had to stop and simply stand in awe of it. The water had begun to shimmer with silvery light when the clouds floated away in the sky overhead. It was so captivating that I simply stood there in silence for quite a while, drinking it all in. I distinctly remember the sound of the waves lapping the shore and the incredible silver of the reflected moonlight, outlined by the dark blue of the surrounding water. The beauty of that night became imprinted in my memory especially because it was a very spiritual moment. My heart was moved by the presence of God.
As I reflected on this, I thought of one of my favorite hymns, Be Thou My Vision. The words of the hymn reminded me of something quite simple: if we want to see beauty and desire to know that we are in God’s presence, we should ask Him for this gift. To see with God’s eyes would radically change how we see the world and the people in it who we encounter. It would help us see beauty as that which is charged with His presence. It would heighten our gift of faith and expand our sense of wisdom in our decision making. And if we saw ourselves through God’s eyes it would transform our own perception of who we are made to be. In short, it would change our world.
We often lose the sense of wonder and awe found in simple things if we become jaded by the ordinariness of life. What is really happening is a process of beginning to lose a sense of appreciation for the gifts of each day. This means we fail to see the beauty in the people with whom we are in contact because we fail to see the beauty that we possess. The more we fail to see God’s hand within ourselves, and the more we then fail to see it in others, the more distanced we are in seeing the beauty of the world around us.
No matter where we are we need to be open to finding beauty, and hence, the presence of God. Of course, being human we cannot live with heightened awareness of every little thing all the time, but we can return to having the eyes such as children possess in order to see with more than just a fleeting glance. Some of us may learn to see the world anew after a difficult experience, such as when we survive something that we ought not to have survived, like a near death experience or a brush with something truly dangerous. When we are faced with something dire we often come away with a new appreciation for the gift of life, but also for the gift of seeing beauty in the simplest of things. It is as if blinders were removed from our eyes and we are seeing for the first time. It is not the world that has changed in such an experience; rather it is our vision which has changed.
We do not need to wait for a near disaster to have our vision changed. It is something we can do now, as we desire to be the person God made us to be. This is not a negation of our sinfulness; rather it is an acknowledgement that with God’s help we can grow in holiness. Nor is it a denial that there is evil in the world. Rather, it is having faith in the power of God that He will prevail in the end. We simply need to ask for the gift of vision for ourselves and for our world, because if we begin to see beauty within and without, it will affect our responses and our choices.
God sees us with the eyes of beauty because God is beauty. He sees us as we are, and He longs for us to see ourselves as He sees us. It is a shame that we allow sin, including the sinful belief that we are not worth much, to begin to tarnish the reflection of who we truly are. Yes, we are sinners. But that does not change the love with which God loves us nor the beauty with which we were begotten. The problem is that we begin to believe only the bad about ourselves and then it negatively affects how we see others, such that we forget that we are all loved by God. This leads us to lose appreciation for the gifts we have and for the gifts possessed by others, too.
As I have said, when we begin to see our own beauty we will begin to see the beauty in the world around us. This is what it will take to change the world into a place of greater peace. The evil that is beyond us which causes so much pain and suffering is part of the effect of a lack of love which begins at home, so to speak. Every time one of us submits to selfishness and a lack of respect and love for ourselves and therefore for others, we have a cheapened sense of the world and of the people around ourselves. We begin to lose the beauty and wonder of how people and things were created, an attitude which spreads like a cancer. But conversely when we see with eyes healed by God's loving kindness, we can affect others with His love by our very presence. By our own example, we have to teach others to see themselves as God sees them if we want our world to change. But we have to be willing to let God show us who we are and affect the change in ourselves that allows the process to begin, before this will happen. While we may not be able to stop the horrors taking place in Iraq and Syria, for example, if we begin to share our love here at home, it will inform our decisions, it will allow others (and ourselves) to trust that God is with us in our sufferings, and to see that in the end the beauty of this world pales when compared to the beauty of the world that is to come. Seeing with God’s eyes is the key to loving. Indeed I pray for Him to be our vision, so that we may learn to love as He does.
The point is this: if we desire to have new vision for that which is beautiful, if we want to get in touch with love, especially the love with which we were made, if we want to see with His eyes and love with His heart, we need to spend time with God asking Him for the grace. That is to say, the Holy Spirit will give us these graces if we spend the time both asking for them and expecting to receive them. We will not be changed all at once, but little by little our stony hearts will be changed into hearts of flesh and our weakened eyes will have the veils removed so that we see with the clarity with which we so long to see. If we seek, we shall find; this is what He has promised. In Jeremiah 29:13 God said: "When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you will find me." And then later Jesus said: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7) He addresses this to all people, especially those of us who are in most need of grace. His greatest desire for us is that we know who we are: we are His beloved children, beautiful in His eyes.
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to give us the eyes with which He sees the world! May we grow in having God’s vision such that His presence is our light! May we have the faith to know that we are deeply loved by God and therefore that He is with us always! May the Lord be our best thought through night and through day! And may we have the trust in God’s goodness to stay strong as we try to bring His love to others! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* The following is the first verse of the hymn Be Thou My Vision:
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
The remainder of the verses can be found at http://www.oremus.org/hymnal/b/b021.html
The photos are all mine. The seascape was taken on a cloudy day while at the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and the last photo was taken while hiking on Copper Mountain in Colorado.
Heart Speaks to Heart