Our Houses Have Simple Beauty – Br. James Koester

There is a line in our Rule of Life which, over the years, has become increasingly important to us. Indeed it has become one of our guiding principles, so much so that during the planning and actual renovation of the monastery, we referred to it repeatedly. However, having said that, I am not sure that when we wrote the Rule, we realized then that it was, or would become, so important and central to our lives. The line appears in the chapter on Hospitality and says quite simply, that our houses have simple beauty.[1]

As we know, there is a great deal of ugliness in the world, most if not all of it, if I can make a sweeping statement, created by humanity. The ugliness of the destruction of creation, as it is destroyed solely for our benefit, and the ugliness of the sin of poverty, racism, and war is all around us, and so places that are dedicated to simple beauty are a refuge for the heart, and mind, and soul.

But that’s not exactly what we are saying here. We are not saying that our homes are a refuge from all that is ugly in the world and in people’s lives, although I hope they are. We are saying much more than that, because we are linking beauty, to the things of God.

It is not enough merely to offer accommodation to visitors.  Our faith must recognize the one who comes to us in the person of the guest, the stranger and the pilgrim.  It is the Lord, who has identified himself with each of his sisters and brothers.  If we are to give them bread and not stones, and truly meet Christ in them face to face, we must realize the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us for the ministry of hospitality, and remember how deeply people are yearning for the things of God.[2]

For us, as for the author of the Wisdom of Solomon, beauty is nothing less than a revelation of God.

If through delight in the beauty of these things people assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them.[3]

As Father Congreve reminds us, our sense of beauty belongs to the image of God in [us]…[4]

For Father Congreve, and the author of the book Wisdom, as for us, beauty is nothing less than the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ, the one through whom all things were made.[5]

When we say that our houses have simple beauty, we are saying nothing less than that our houses are to be revelations, not of beauty in itself, but of the author and creator of all beauty, and of Jesus who is beauty incarnate.

And the Word became beautiful and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.[6]

Wisdom of Solomon 13: 1 – 9

[1] SSJE, Rule of Life, Hospitality, chapter 34, page 68

[2] Ibid, page 68

[3] Wisdom of Solomon 13: 3

[4] Congreve, George, Christian Life…A ResponseThe Beauty that is in the World, chapter 24, page 271

[5] See John 1: 3 and Colossians 1: 16

[6] See John 1: 14

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