What makes one beautiful? It is an inner strength that most often takes the form of light.
When Jesus Christ spoke in Palestine about authentic Life – the Kingdom of God – that had come into the world in His Person; when He healed every sickness and infirmity, report of Him sounded afar, even to Syria.
And His fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and He healed them (Matthew 4:24-25).
Christ taught a life free from anger, lust, and greed, and the people listened to Him for hours, forgetting about food and rest. He said, among other things: Ye are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:14, 16). Another time, in another place, while healing the man born blind, He put it differently: I am the light of the world (John 9:5).
Who, then, is the light? Is it He or the people? Is there not a slip of the tongue or a contradiction here? No! This is an indication of cause and effect. He once explained this explicitly: I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12).
The light of life and its beauty in us are from God. You have likely heard of black holes in space. It may be that these are exploding stars that have collapsed from blazing giants into super-dense small bodies; in them time and space have switched roles. Whatever the nature of these cosmic phenomena, everything in them disappears completely and irretrievably. It is a chasm of nothingness, an abyss of hopelessness.
Anyone who lays up for himself treasures upon earth, who lives only for his own benefit and comfort, is frightfully reminiscent of a black hole, of a gaping chasm in a beautiful world. What if there will be more such bottomless holes? Would we fall through? God forbid! We must ask Him how to avoid such misfortune. Clearly, someone who is a hole, an egoist, will have to answer God for the burned-out years. How will he answer? He will have nothing and no way to respond. He is a hole, an eternal enemy of himself, self-destructive; a being that lived for himself and himself only.
Unselfish beauty that blooms here on earth will go on in time to unfading beauty. Life manifests itself in light; it is light, the clarity of direction, growth. Beauty, too, is light: special, hidden, coming from the heart. This means that life and beauty are one. If both are present it is the real thing. The meaning of life is to serve God and thereby to draw near to Him – so close as to be in Him. And we meet and see God only in other people.
To sum up: a beautiful life is one that is given to another person – to one or to many – without self-serving and calculation, but with a clear mind and at the behest of a loving heart. A spiritual light illuminates such a life, and within it everything shines, everything gives off warmth: the eyes, words, deeds, and even one’s entire nature. If you really care about beauty, then do not run after fashion; do not worry about having tanned or soft skin, about makeup and expensive jewelry. Do not dress up like a doll or a monkey – do not dress up at all, in order not to look ridiculous. It is better to live purely – and then you shall do so beautifully.
An excerpt from Fr. Paul Kartaschev’s book, Conversations with Young People: On God, Love, and Beauty.