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Living with Beauty, Truth, and Goodness

One of my favorite novel series is Susan Howatch’s Church of England series. There are two subsets of novels in the series, the six "Starbridge" novels, which chronicle the stories of several Anglican priests and bishops, starting in the 1930s and progressing to 1960s, and a second set of novels, which bring the stories to the present in the setting of a London healing centre. Besides the fact that a number of the books deal directly with a healing ministry, which is an obvious interest of mine, I am attracted to the stories because they are concerned with crises of faith and the characters’ struggles to reconcile their humanity with their spiritual beliefs and with living in the world.

The Rev. Charles Ashworth is the protagonist in both the first and last book of the “Starbridge” series. (These two novels are entitled Glittering Images and Absolute Truths). In both novels, Ashworth struggles with finding “Absolutes” that he can trust will never change, and he finally settles on Plato’s Ideal Forms– Beauty, Truth, and Goodness– as Absolutes that also describe God for him. In one moving scene, Ashworth prays by imagining that he is lighting three candles, one for each of the Absolutes, and then he imagines the person for whom he is praying in the middle of the candles. I have used this imagery myself, and I have found it quite effective in my own intercessory prayer. Then I combine the lights to reveal the ultimate Absolute—Love. For me, the Source of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness must be Love, and so the Source is God.

As for so many others, like Emerson, Tagore, and Keats, these transcendental ideals describe for me what is important in life. For one thing, I like the relationship they seem to have with the three centers of the Enneagram. Goodness seems to have a special affinity for the Instinctual Center of the 8s, 9s, and 1s. Beauty seems connected to the Feeling Center of the 2s, 3s, and 4s, and Truth has a strong correlation to the Thinking Center of the 5s. 6s, and 7s. Honoring these Absolutes and the Love that created them is honoring all that is divine in the seen and unseen universe.

So, how do we honor these Absolutes of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness in our own lives? To do so, we need to do three things:

Acknowledge the Ideal: We need to see the Beauty, Truth, and Goodness that surrounds us. When we see a beautiful sunset, for example, we can pause just a minute from our busy-ness and enjoy it. We can take a moment to thank the Source of this moment for allowing us to experience it. How often do we have experiences that are profound only to forget them because we didn’t take the time to fully stop and appreciate the moment?

Share the Experience: If there is someone near us, we can point toward or describe our experience. For that matter, in this day of cell phones and instant messaging, we can share with someone not present. Similarly, we can write about it in our journal, or we can simply share it with God as a moment closest to Christ. How often could we spread light into the world by sharing the goodness that we experience rather than by bemoaning the ill will and evil that we see?

Own the Gift: Once we’ve acknowledged and shared the Beauty, Truth, or Goodness around us, we need to make that gift our own. Too often, we don’t see the moment as the generous quality of Spirit that blesses us and opens our hearts to the experience of real Love. When we accept the present moment as the gift that it is, the experience then becomes part of memory. It is ours. We can contemplate it later, sitting with it in stillness and allowing the memory to wash over us again. Likewise, we can recall it when our souls need nourishment or comfort. We may even find a way to recreate the moment in art or music. The point is to make the experience of the Absolute our own—something that can’t be taken from us or lost.

Today, I invite you to notice when Beauty, Truth, or Goodness enters your life. When it does, acknowledge that you are aware of this perfect gift. Share it with someone, and own it by committing it to memory. Once you are aware that you have experienced all three of the Ideals, light a candle, one for each of them, and hold yourself in the center of the flames in perfect Love. As you complete the ritual, remember that God loves you and has gifted you with Beauty, Truth, and Goodness in your life.

jug and flowers on rug

My Experiences of Healing at Centurion House

(Editor's note: The following article was published originally in the Centurion House newsletter, and it appears by permission of the author. Centurion House is a healing ministry in Asheville, NC, which is operated by Episcopal priest John Rice. Since the Howatch novels involve a healing ministry, I thought this might be of some interest to readers. The author's name is withheld for privacy.)

The main reason that I went to Centurion House was that, as I child, I was repeatedly sexually abused by an uncle for about five years. I had hidden that experience so deep in my heart and mind that I no longer thought of it much unless I was near the house where it happened. However, at my Cursillo [a weekend of spiritual renewal offered by the Episcopal and some other churches], something in one of the talks triggered the memory of what happened so long ago and the realization that I needed to forgive the person responsible because it was keeping me from having the relationship with Jesus that I wanted. I knew that He would heal those memories if I asked. I confessed the abuse during a healing service at that Cursillo weekend and was encouraged by Geri Nelson, a deacon, to seek healing at Centurion House.

The first time I went to Centurion House for healing, the prayer ministers prayed with me for about an hour. I was able to go to my "safe place", but I did not experience the presence of Jesus. I did feel the Holy Spirit's presence, but neither Jesus or Mary would make themselves known to me. I was somewhat disappointed, but Father Rice encouraged me to attend a Generational Healing Eucharist and to continue to pray that whatever was keeping the wall around those memories would break down and let the healing take place.

I did attend the Generational Healing Eucharist. Participants take a piece of paper on which is written the names, known sins, and physical problems of the family members back through the great grandparents to the altar at the offertory. Those papers remain there during the prayers for healing and the Eucharist. At the end of the service, the papers with all those sins and problems are taken outside and burned. When this happened, I sensed a terrible stench as the smoke from the fire burning those papers began to billow up for forgiveness and healing. It was a comforting thing to see that smoke rise.

I prayed that the walls around the abuse experience would break down. I went to the place I pictured in my mind as my "safe place", a bench at the top of the mountain at Roads End Retreat Center, and asked Jesus to come to me there. I then "saw" the shadow of Him standing beside my bench, but I did not see Him fully.

The next time I went to Centurion House, Geri Nelson was able to join the prayer team. I had continued to pray that the walls would break down to let Him in. When we started the session with prayers, I went to my "safe place" and asked Jesus to join me. I felt Him walk up beside me. He was just a shadow at first, but soon He was standing right there with me. I was able to look into His kind face and see the beautiful light that surrounded Him. I stood up, and He embraced me - the love and the sense of peace was overwhelming.

Then He sat down on my bench, and I became myself as a child. I sat on the ground with my head on His knee. He put His hand on my shoulder and we just sat there for a while, surrounded by the beautiful Light. After a while, He stood up and held His hand out for me to go with Him.

We walked down the hill; then we were in the yard of the house where the abuse had happened all those years ago. Mary, His mother, was waiting for us behind the house. She held out her hand for me to take, and I did so although I had an overwhelming desire to run away.

Jesus walked up a path leading away from the house and came back leading my uncle by the arm. I hid in the folds of Mary's cloak. She was softly humming and holding my hand while her other hand was on my shoulder. She told me to listen.

Jesus told Uncle Marshall what a terrible thing he had done to me and that he shouldn't have hurt me like that. He told him that he should be very sorry for continuing to hurt me over and over. Then He told him to bow. Uncle Marshall was crying, and he told me how sorry he was for all the things he had done to me and made me do to him. Jesus then put His hand on Uncle Marshall's head and told him that he was forgiven. Mary told me that I should forgive him as well. I didn't want to at first, but the Light in the yard was so full of love and peace that I was able to forgive him.

Jesus then led Uncle Marshall away and came back leading my mother (as a young woman). She was crying when she saw me. Jesus told her that she should have paid more attention to me when I asked her why Uncle Marshall was touching me. She said that she really didn't think it was that serious, and she began to cry harder and told me how sorry she was that she didn't stop it. Jesus told her to kneel, and He put His hand on her head and forgave her. I told her it was OK, and she reached out and hugged me. As we stood up, she dissolved into the Light, and I was back, as my adult self, sitting on the bench at Roads End. Jesus was standing beside me.

He told me that He wanted to take all the pain away. He told me to look inside myself and find the hurt. It was like a squirming blob inside my heart. He told me to get it and give it to Him. When I touched it, it was slimy and had an awful smell. He held out His hand and took it from me. It was HUGE! He continued to pull until the whole writhing, ugly mass was in His hands. He lifted it up and said, "Be gone!", in a commanding voice. All of a sudden, it became a brilliant beam of Light that went from His hands into my heart. It was such a warm and loving feeling, like being held in a loving embrace. He again told me that He loved me, and He reached out and hugged me once more. He was gone, but I was still surrounded by that beautiful Light.

Then John, Ann, and Geri laid hands on me and prayed that I would continue to feel the Light as I went on my way. John said I should expect surprises and that I should feel closer to Jesus.

Both have been true.

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Oct. 2004

In This Issue

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Reading List

book club

Howatch, Susan. Glittering Images. Ballentine Books, 1995.
This this is the book mentioned in the article at right. It is the first of six novels on this theme.

O'Donohue, John.Beauty: The Invisible Embrace. Harper Perrenial, 2005.
John O'Donohue is a Irish priest and poet. In this amazing book, he suggest that the pursuit of beauty may be the remedy for the insecurity in our lives.

Kushner,Harold S. When Bad Things Happen to Good People Anchor, 2004.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of this powerful little in which Rabbi Kushner tackles the problem of evil and why we sometimes suffer— whether we deserve it or not.

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Copyright 2004
Suzanne H. Eller

Credit: Free photos from acobox.com

Favorite Quotes about Beauty, Truth & Goodness

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
~Wayne Dyer

Goodness is a special kind of truth and beauty. It is truth and beauty in human behavior.
~ H. A. Overstreet

Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.
~ Elvis Presley

They're only truly great who are truly good.
~ George Chapmane

Divinity is creature comprehensible as truth, beauty, and goodness; correlated in personality as love, mercy, and ministry; disclosed on impersonal levels as justice, power, and sovereignty.
~ The Urantia Book

Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.
~ Ashley Smith

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.
~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Truth, and goodness, and beauty, are but different faces of the same All.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves— such an ethical basis I call more proper for a herd of swine. The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.
~ Albert Einstein

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