Beauty and Modesty

Something to remember in the midst of the Twilight hype….

 “How beautiful then is modesty and what a gem among virtues it is.”
          St. Bernard, Doctor of the Church 

Here we are in the middle of Fall!  Football season is surging ahead, leaves are piling up and our mornings have that special crispness in the air.  Orange, brown, red and yellow begin to replace the bright blues and greens of summer.  Fall is a beautiful time of year, and provides a meaningful backdrop for turning our thoughts to the question of beauty.   What, you might ask, does beauty have to do with our faith? 

It may surprise you to discover that the Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses beauty in several places.  Among them, Section 2129 of the Catechism quotes from the Book of Wisdom that God Himself is “the author of beauty”.  In section 341 of the Catechism, we read that “The beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator and ought to inspire the respect and submission of man’s intellect and will.”  These pave the way to help us understand our Christian life, which the Catechism speaks of in section 2784, quoting St. Gregory of Nyssa: “We must contemplate the beauty of the Father without ceasing to adorn our own souls accordingly”.

Because being human means having both a body AND a soul, the responsibility a Christian bears in adorning his or her soul relates directly the the adornment of his or her body.  In fact, in section 2519 of the Catechism, we are instructed that the meaning of the phrase “pure in heart”, used by Jesus Himself in the Beatitudes (Gospel of Matthew 5:8) describes a disposition in our hearts which “lets us perceive the human body – ours and our neighbor’s – as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty.”  Purity of heart is a precondition for seeing God. 
In other words, we cannot go to Heaven without a pure heart.

This is why modesty is essential in the life of a Christian.  The Catechism states in section 2521 that “purity requires modesty”.  “Modesty protects the intimate center of the person.  It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden.  It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness.  It guides how one looks at others and behaves towards them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.”  Modesty also “inspires one’s choice in clothing”.  Our daughters in particular need help to be beautiful and modest!  

Baptism is the Sacrament which purifies us from all sin, but most of us were baptized a long time ago.  We continue to struggle with sin and temptation.  How, then, do we adorn our souls accordingly?  How do we restore the purity of our hearts?  Jesus has given us another Sacrament – it is known by different names – it is called Confession, Reconciliation or Penance.  In this Sacrament, Jesus washes away our sins with His Precious Blood.  He brings us help, hope and healing.  Failings in purity and modesty need to be confessed if we want to go to Heaven.  The call to Confession is an invitation to be beautiful!

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