"Quit being a lemon and make some lemonade in these straitened times," a journalist urged in a recent article. Instead of whinging and complaining we must be on the alert for what is lovely around us. Instead of blaming people and events and falling into a 'poor me' mode, we must consciously look for the good and the beautiful. Can we risk believing there is always something lovely even in most dire circumstances? St Paul, writing in a time when he was experiencing very straitened circumstances indeed, being in prison, urged the Philippans to "think on things that are true and lovely and gracious" (Phil 4:8).
It has seldom been more important than the present time for us to awaken to the beauty all around us. Now, when we are hugely, and rightly, concerned at the devastation of our world, the destruction of habitat and the loss of species, when we rage against the greed of those who recklessly pursue policies that spell disaster on communities, now is the critical time to stand by one tree, to listen to one bird, to look, really look at one flower. We must give time to relish and savour that which touches us deeply, be it a song, a poem, a painting or the little dog of my neighbour.
It takes a poet like the Irishman, Patrick Kavanagh to look beyond the mud and slush and see the beauty of a cut-away bog. Others could talk disparagingly of 'the bog' but for Kavanagh it was the place of encounter with the 'beautiful, beautiful, beautiful God….'
Maybe we can only recognise the beauty surrounding us when we welcome the beauty that lies deep within us. We are created in God's image yet how seldom we acknowledge our own beauty. "I give you thanks that I am wonderfully made," sang the psalmist (Ps 139). It is a song of praise and gratitude to the One who made us and delights in us.
Because it always comes to us as a gift, beauty calls us to see, to pause, to be still and receive. The sadness is that we become so busy and bothered about the trials and difficulties that beset us, that we seldom give time and space to welcome this gift. The trials are real, the pain of life is deep, but lurking in the darkest corner is the very gift we need just now. God invites us to ready ourselves, to be alert and open to receive these blessings.
We may not have a garden, or live near a park, but when we look for and wait for beauty it will come to us. Our spirits lift as in the most delicate and unexpected ways we are touched by the beauty which up till now had remained hidden from us. Our very existence is illuminated by what is beautiful. We are changed, our eyes are opened, our hearts made strong, so that, even as Mother Teresa did in the slums of Calcutta, we too are enabled to 'do something beautiful for God.' So, how about beginning with that glass of lemonade?
Sr Redempta Twomey is Assistant Editor of the Far East at St Columban’s, Navan, Ireland.