Beauty is Divine

On matters of religion and faith, I teach a lot of people, especially children. This is what I tell them: Personally, I have never seen God nor have I seen the soul. I can not prove the existence of God or the soul. Whether you choose to believe in God or whether you choose deny a God is a matter of personal faith. You either have that faith or you do not. But I tell my students that my faith is grounded on the sense of wonder that I feel about the world that I live in.

When I look out over the Pacific ocean and see the vastness of the sea, when I watch the sunset descending over the mountains and see the silver mist rising from the canyons, I am struck with a feeling of awe for the exquisite beauty of nature. That feeling of awe and reverence for the world is an aspect of God for me. Beauty is divine. When I look at pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, I am confronted by the extreme vastness of space. Looking into a telescope is looking back into time! I see beauty, and again I am struck with wonder.

When I look into an electron microscope and see the extraordinary details of life at the molecular level, again I am struck by the extreme workings of creation. I see beauty. The complexity of life at the microcosm is divine.

And even as I watched the World Trade Centers collapsing on that fateful morning of September 11, 2001. I was struck by the awesome nature of so much death and destruction appearing before my eyes. That was negative beauty. I also saw that destruction as an aspect of the Divine. Aesthetics is the rationale for my faith.

As a father, I have seen birth, and as a priest I have watched death. Both are wondrous! Both suggest something amazing about life. So I ask, “What is that something”?

Anna, I cannot show you God or prove to you the existence of the soul. All I have is a sense of wonder for the awesome nature of life and death. Together this suggests there must be “a something”, an ordered foundation to life. That Something is what I call God. This is my leap of faith and it is based on my experiences in this world. Living with this kind of faith enriches my life, so I embrace it. A human reaches out and attempts to grasp hold of this Something, and through Its wonder and beauty this Something takes hold of the human heart. Religion is therefore a “dance” between this Something and the human heart. A human heart ignited is a most powerful thing. For better or worse religion brings out both the best and worst of humanity.

As a priest I stand on the edge of time, at the junction of the old and the new. On the one hand, I represent a tradition that goes back thousands of years with all its beauty, with all its superstitions, and with all its injustices. On the other hand, I get to pass on the best of this tradition to the children of this generation. I get to filter out what is no longer relevant. In my own way I nurture the faith of my students based on the reality of this world, and not because some book says there is a God or a soul. Faith properly developed can bring out the best of humanity. This kind of faith is indeed a sacred and wondrous thing.

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