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God's Appreciation of Beauty?

Its been a cold winter in the UK and the Spring is still hesitating to break out into constant, medium warmth - all of which is perhaps the 'penalty' for living on an island! (Of course this letter goes to parts of the earth where extremes of temperature are common and of which we have no experience). But the shrubs are blooming and the picture in this letter is of the viburnum birkwoodii planted in this small garden less than two years ago. April and May can be the most splendid months of the year with the new unblemished growth almost 'flaunting' their beauty before us.

Which brings me to an obscure topic. Does God appreciate the beauty of the earth and 'all that is therein'? Few theologians seem to have the imagination of the poets and musicians who both create beauty and reflect it from their experience of it either in nature or in life among people. Perhaps the common criticism of theologians, that they are divorced from the reality of life is true! But it is an interesting question and one that could change our ordinary perception of God. The writers of the first creation account in Genesis has God see that what has happened in the creation 'is good' and the second creation story has God planting a garden in Eden. There is something special about thinking of God as really enjoying all the beauty in the earth, in people, and presumably in the cosmos - and, in tune with our own experience, finding that the good does outweigh the bad and the evil things that happen.

It is now two years since Tim and I launched out into what we called the 'new life'. While it has been a busy time, it has been good. Of course it has also been strange not having the integrated form of monastic living we had been used to for so long, when worship, study, work and common life conspired to beautify our lives and the people who shared it. But living cheek by jowl with students, and those who teach them, is a vivifying experience and full of hope and life. This is the 'new life'!

Tim is looking forward(!) to sitting his exams for the MPhil on May 9-10 - the exams to end all exams as far as he is concerned. A lot of hard work has gone into these past two years at London University and Tim is looking eagerly forward to writing his PhD thesis in the following two or three years.

Aelred has also been busy reading and writing and has composed a small volume which he is hoping some publisher will look kindly upon. It is called Worship as Believing: Faith and Reason in search of a theology of Worship. It puts question marks against certain traditional aspects of eucharistic worship when set against a modern, reasonable understanding of God. (Hence my interest in the God who delights in beauty!)

Warm greetings from us both.

© Aelred Arnesen

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