IF beauty has such power to take captive the desires, why, O my heart, art thou not captivated by this infinite beauty of thy Creator?  O fountain of all beauty, from which all other beauties flow, why am I not wholly transported by the consummate perfection of such extreme and sovereign comeliness?  The beauty of created things is trivial, transitory, momentary and perishable. To-day it is fresh as the flower of the field, and on the morrow it is withered away. The beauty of the creature fades, and fails to continue any great length of time; but the beauty of the Creator endures for ever, and is coexistent with Himself.

All beauty compared with that of the Lord is very great deformity. Why, then, O my soul, dost thou suffer thyself to be possessed by a love of the deformity existing in the deceitful creature, which is covered with a false appearance of beauty, whilst thou forsakest the true beauty of thy God?  The beauty of the Creator has greater superiority over that of the creature than the substance over the shadow. Since, then, the shadow that thou lovest allures thee so strongly, why does not the light that thou desirest captivate thee? 

If those works cause thee such admiration, which yet cannot be impressed with the perfection which they possess in the divine pattern, on account of the dullness of the material whereon they have been elaborated, how is it that thou art not transported beyond thyself when contemplating the beauty and perfection which exist in the pattern from which they were derived?  What man can there be in the world who, having been inspired with a great admiration for a very beautiful likeness of a person drawn from nature, does not become much more attached to the individual person? 

If, then, all creatures are Thy handiwork, my God, and man is Thy image and likeness, why, O Lord, am I not more inspired with affection for Thee than for Thine image and likeness?  And if I love with such regard things whose value lies chiefly in the fact that they are coveted by me, why should I not love Him without Whom there is no good whatever, and Who created those very things out of love for me? 

My heart shall be taken captive by the infinite beauty of my God. O beauty of such long standing, yet so new, how slow have I been in learning to know Thee, how late in loving Thee! Art not Thou, O Lord, peradventure, the very One of Whom the Psalmist declares: "Thou art beautiful above the sons of men"? [Psalms xliv. 3.] Of Thee the Bride affirms that Thou art "White and ruddy, chosen out of thousands".[Song of Songs v. 10]

And if in this place of exile I do not discern the beauty of Thy Divine Majesty as Thou art beautiful in heaven, yet through the beauty of the heavens, the planets, trees, flowers, and the variety of the very vivid colours in those things which Thy Divine Hands have made, I know my God and Lord to be an infinite abyss of beauty, even of that beauty from which these other beauties derive their origin.

Therefore, if in this world we can in any degree take note of Thy Divine beauty, which is the beginning and cause of all that is beautiful, why does not the knowledge thus acquired by my judgement and reason carry me away with impetuous haste, and exalt me to the love of such great perfection and beauty?  The brave apparel of the beautiful Judith captivated the Prince Holofernes[See Judith x. 3 seq.; xii. 15, and xvi. 8, 9.]; the beauty of Esther changed the iron heart of Assuerus into tenderness.[Esther ii. 15.] How is it, then, that I do not forget myself and all things in the world for the love of Thy infinite beauty? 

The Scripture pronounces ephemeral beauty to be mere vanity,[Proverbs xxxi. 30.] in order the more effectually to mock him who loves it. But this eternal beauty, which is peculiar to Thee, my God, will endure as long as Thou endurest, which will be for ever without end. Jonas refreshed himself beneath the verdure of the ivy,[note 1] which being gnawed by a worm soon withered away. Decay and foul corruption are inseparably united to all corporeal beauty such as is that of the creature.

To what, then, can my soul have recourse, and wherewith can my love fill its heart, but with that everlasting and infinite beauty, which never dies and never decays?  If from short-sightedness in this transitory life I cannot discern Thy beauty with my bodily eyes, it is enough that with the spectacles of faith I can attain to the knowledge thereof, by which consideration my soul and all my faculties are transfused into Thee, transported to the love of Thy ineffable beauty.

Great is the power which corporeal beauty possesses to excite the eyes, and through them to carry away the heart; and still greater is the dullness and stolid heaviness of him who can resolve to turn aside his heart to some corporeal beauty, while he has present before him a beauty so immeasurable as Thine, my God, which compels even Thine inanimate creatures to imitate it.

1. "La verdura de la yedra verde": ivy; derived from the Vulgate, "hedera".[back]