Beauty from Ashes: Beautiful Savior
In 1986 I, along with my husband and son, spent three months in Armenia, then one of the fifteen Soviet Republics. It was quickly apparent that the Soviet system produced nothing of beauty. In fact, I would characterize that society, based on Marxist-Leninist philosophy, with three words: massive, oppressive and GRAY. On our return trip to the U.S. we had an overnight stop in Vienna, where we spent the night and had a chance to walk the streets. I have never experienced anything like the excitement and pleasure I felt just looking in the shop windows at the sparkling, colorful items on display after months of being submerged in a world of gray. I concluded at that time that there must be an innate need in each human being for beauty, without which the soul slowly loses hope and dies.
Since that time I have seen this need expressed in many of my travels with Women of Vision: a bouquet of wildflowers on the broken table of a woman and her family living under cardboard and tin, in utter filth; the loving care shown by worshippers toward their local Orthodox Church giving it a mysterious beauty, especially when compared to their own drab houses; the highly prized, colorful dresses worn by the women living in the brown, dusty Sahara. I believe that beauty gives us pleasure and joy by giving us a sense of order and balance, by delighting our senses with exquisite colors or sounds, and reminding us that there is goodness in this life. When preparing for a vision trip people often ask me for suggestions as to gifts to bring. My first response is, “Give them something beautiful.”
When Jesus walked this earth, he declared that the Kingdom of God was at hand. But his kingdom is an upside down kingdom, where the last becomes first, where you add by subtracting, where you lead by serving. This was a radical departure from the world’s value system and in the end Jesus was crucified because he challenged this system.
As Isaiah wrote: “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities…the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53: 4-5) Although Isaiah also writes, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (53:1) it is the goodness in Jesus that makes him beautiful. “He made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) What wonderful Good News we have to share, particularly for the poor, the oppressed, those whose lives have been reduced to ashes. Jesus gives us a crown of beauty and the power to live lives of dignity, purpose, hope and joy.
by Cheryl Touryan, Colorado Women of Vision