The monastery’s theme for 2022 is beauty. Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote in The Brothers Karamozov: “The world will be saved by beauty.” The first image that came to me as I pondered this was that of Vedran Smajlovic playing Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor in the bombed streets of Sarajevo in 1992. He played each day for 22 days to mark the death of the 22 people killed standing in line for bread during the siege of the city. Hear the story from BBC news.
Beauty can keep the human heart and spirit alive in the midst of suffering. The PBS Newshour on March 7, 2022, reported on ways this is happening in Ukraine in the midst of the bombing. A young girl sings “Let It Go,” the theme song from Frozen, for her shelter mates. Outside the Lviv train station, a piano is set up, and a young woman plays “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong as people fleeing their homes wait in line to buy tickets.
In a basement bomb shelter in Kharkiv, the violinist, Vera Lytochenko, plays for the eleven others in the shelter. Lytochenko, called the “cellar violinist” has posted her concerts on social media where thousands of people in Ukraine watch. “Many people text me now saying that my videos give them such support and hope. They can see that someone stays here [in Kharkiv]. Someone is alive and someone keeps hope and is optimistic.”
In speaking about the Way of Beauty (Via Pulcritudinus) initiative by Pope Benedict XVI, Elizabeth Lev, professor of art history at Duquesne University, said Pope Benedict noted that “beauty wounds.” It creates a little opening where the Holy Spirit can get in.
I have experienced that wounding of beauty, that opening, as a moment of awe, of mercy and grace. For me, that wounding of beauty often comes with tears. The first time I entered the empty assembly room after the monastery building was completed, I was touched by the beauty of its simplicity. It felt like a sacred space, and I was moved to tears. I felt embraced by the Holy. Perhaps you who are parents have experienced this at the birth of a child. We might experience this in nature or in witnessing courage in the midst of suffering.
It is said that wherever there is Truth, Beauty and Goodness, there is God. These days, people are experiencing quite a bit of despair, hopelessness, fear, hatred, meaninglessness. Beauty can save us. The beauty of the Olympic athletes captivated our attention even in the midst of political tension. The beauty of the murals on the plywood boarding up the windows on State Street in Madison, WI showed the hope of the human spirit for an equitable world after the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in May 2020.
Lia Howard writes: “It is brave to create beauty where there is fear and it may just save someone else” (11/2/2020 blog). This Lent, I invite you to include in your prayer one beautiful thing or encounter that catches your attention. Spend time with it; let it touch your heart and create a little opening in you. Stay with that moment. How does the Spirit move in you? How might you share it with others?
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