You may think this topic has more to do with a fashion magazine than theology, but St Pope John Paul II took the feminine body very seriously. This mystery, as he explains in his Apostolic Letter, ‘Mulieris Dignitatem’, involves ‘a special openness’ to the new person, on the part of woman, through which she discovers her own identity precisely as woman. Feminine beauty finds its fullest expression in the ‘spousal love’ of motherhood, spiritual motherhood or consecrated celibacy.
What does a beautiful woman look like?
St Mother Teresa wasn’t seen as the most beautiful woman in the world; she had hundreds of wrinkles, a bent and frail body, yet when people met her they all commented that she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Why? She wasn’t sexy, her lips weren’t pouty, her eyelashes weren’t extra-long nor did she have long legs. She was beautiful because she radiated God’s love into everything she did. As St John Paul II wrote in The Theology of the Body, “the body expresses the person”. This basically means that through St Mother Teresa’s body, people saw her soul, alive with love, grace, mercy, compassion, and humility. The body makes visible the invisible truths about our souls and God. At the core of human dignity is the reality that the human person was willed by God simply out of love. Man and woman were made from love, for love. Love is at the heart of our identity as human beings!
Our body is a cenacle, a monstrance: through its crystal, the world should see God.
– Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
In Genesis, God gave Eve a beautiful form and a beautiful spirit. She expresses beauty in both. Better, she expresses beauty simply in who she is. Like God, it is her essence. Beauty is the essence of a woman. It is one of the glorious ways we bear the image of God, but few of us are comfortable with this and fewer still believe we are beautiful. Our beauty is hidden behind makeup and is hidden when we try to be like everybody else. God wants us to shine, to be a leading light of his love for the world. So what makes a body beautiful? It is how it loves. The love St Mother Teresa had for God was seen in her face and through the works of service she did, all with love.
What does this all mean for you and me?
We might look at the latest Vogue magazine and believe we are not beautiful, or we might think we just don’t measure up because we aren’t tall enough, haven’t got the right skin, etc. We might not like what we see in the mirror. But the people we love, and who love us, don’t see what we see. They don’t see a collection of body parts, but us….as a whole person.
Suffering and Beauty
Beauty is to be found in suffering. Everyone suffers in life and each of us are broken in some way, but what you do with that suffering and brokenness is what will make you a saint. Everyone has a cross to bear, some have bigger ones than others, but how we love and what we decide to do with that suffering and pain is what will transform us into the daughters God created us to be. Suffering is a gift and can be turned into something amazing if your heart is open. This gift is immersed in God’s beauty and love. Look at the cross, if you don’t know what love is, you just need to look at the cross, and that will tell you everything you need to know about love, and in turn about beauty. Beauty is Love!
The true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.”