St. John Chrysostom: What is true beauty?


“That He might sanctify it having cleaned it,” he continues, “by washing of water with the word; that He might present the Church to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:26-27)

“By the washing or later,” He washes away her impurities. “By the word,” says he. What word? “In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19) And He has not simply honored her, but He has made her “glorious, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Let us also, then, strive to attain this beauty ourselves, and we shall be able to create it.

Do not look in your wife for those things which she is unable to possess. Do you see that the Church had all things at her Lord’s hands? By Him she was made glorious, by Him she was made pure, by Him she was made without blemish. Do not turn your back on your wife because of her defects. Listen to what the Scripture says, that ” The bee is little among such as fly, but her fruit is the chief of sweet things.” (Eccl. 11:3) She is made by God. You are not condemning her, but rather the One who made her; what can the a woman do? Do not praise her for her beauty. Praise and hatred and love based on personal beauty come from impure souls. Search after the beauty of the soul. Imitate the Bridegroom of the Church.

Outward beauty is full of conceit and licentiousness, and makes men jealous, and it often makes you imagine monstrous things. But does it give any pleasure? For the first or second month, perhaps, or at most for the year: but then no longer. The admiration fades away through familiarity. Meanwhile the ills which arose from the exterior beauty still remain; the pride, the foolishness, the contemptuousness. However, in one who is not beautiful, none of this is to be found. The love that began on honest grounds still continues ardently, since its object is beauty of the soul and not the body.

What better, tell me, is there than heaven? What better is there than the stars? Describe any body you choose, yet there is none so fair. Tell me of any eyes you want, yet there is none so sparkling. When these were created, the very angels gazed in amazement, and we gaze with wonder now; but not with the same amazement as we did at first. Such familiarity; things do not strike us in the same degree. How much more in the case of the wife! And if by some chance disease comes, too, all is immediately lost.

Look for affection, humility, and gentleness in a wife; these are the signs of beauty. But loveliness of physical features let us not seek, not chastise her for lack of these points over which she has no control. No, rather let us not chastise her at all nor be impatient, nor morose. Don’t you see how many men, often living with beautiful wives, have ended their lives despicably, and how many, who have lived with those of no great beauty, have lived on to extreme old age with great enjoyment? Let us wipe off the “spot” that is written, let us smooth the “wrinkles” that are within, let us do away with the “blemishes” that are on the soul. Such is the beauty God requires. Let us make her fair in God’s sight not in our own.

– St. John Chrysostom