Almost every time someone tells us about a beautiful person, the first thing we think of is an attractive face and a harmoniously built body. We associate beauty with the body almost reflexively. Though, if the body were the representation of human beauty, beauty wouldn’t be what we think and hope it is, but it would basically be ageing, decay, sickness and eventually death. All this is due to the fact that no matter how beautiful it used to be, the body eventually starts to decay, to get sick and dies and death remains ugly no matter how artistically it is buried.
Still, why do we have this image that beauty is defined by the body since we are aware of its ugly finality? Since beauty is by definition the opposite of decay and death, why do we indirectly – through the body – associate it with these features of the ugliness? There is however an explanation…
We have this image because most of us are humans with our senses inclined mainly to the body, with perceptions rather carnal than spiritual. In Eden man could see God and all his senses were attracted and fulfilled by the grace of the Holy Spirit. But after man’s falling into sin, God took his grace away and the bodies of the first people were stripped of the divine glory with which they had been adorned, so that instincts led to bodily lust being overcome by spiritual lust. And man lost his gift to see and feel divine beauty. Nevertheless his terrible thirst to quench his senses with beauty remained. And because he no longer seeks divine beauty which requires ascetic effort, man struggles to quench his thirst for beauty by a means more accessible which is the body. This is why we instinctively think of the body when it comes to beauty.
Nevertheless spiritual beauty can be easily told apart from bodily beauty. Carnal beauty, once contemplated, stirs our bodily desire, irritating us and giving us discomfort until we satisfy the desire which was stirred up. When you look at a person with an attractive body and face, you unknowingly lose your freedom of will which is enslaved by sexual instinct which doesn’t allow you to have peace. On the contrary, when we look at a person with spiritual beauty, our freedom of will remains untouched no matter how long we contemplate that person’s appearance and what’s most important is the inner feeling we are left with afterwards because spiritual beauty is comforting, calming, it brings peace and touches man’s heart making him love more.
For these reasons, the only beauty whose seeing and feeling makes us feel accomplished and truly fulfilled has been, is and will only be the spiritual beauty. Therefore, although it also reflects in the body, beauty is defined through spirit, through man’s inner life, through the part of him that is made in the image of God. This is the key to understanding beauty. And a man can only be beautiful if he resembles God. And it is only by love that we can resemble God. So beautiful people are those with virtues, those who love God and their neighbors. That is why the most beautiful man in the world is our Saviour Jesus Christ and the most beautiful woman in the world is the Most Holy Mother of God.
Translated by Claudia