by Sara Breetzke, TCA Head of School
A classical education is often described as the pursuit of the true, the good, and the beautiful.
As classical students, we gaze on truth, goodness, and beauty as we study perfectly formed cells, symmetry in art, inspiring stories in history, and the satisfaction of a well-turned phrase of Shakespeare.
But we don’t stop at mere contemplation: these things change us. They spark our desires, order our lives, and express praise and worship to the giver of every good and perfect gift.
We understand this progression in the pursuits of truth and goodness. Classical students meditate on scripture and God’s world, seeking right ideas about God and self that change our hearts. Similarly, we take in goodness through reflection on God’s character and through stories about virtue. We expect our students to grow in truth and goodness as the Spirit works in them.
But what does it mean to gaze on beauty and to live beautiful lives?
First, we must get rid of the idea that beauty is purely subjective. A study by architect Christopher Alexander found that when shown two pictures, students consistently chose the same one when asked these questions:
“Which one of these objects better represents your whole self?”
“If you had a choice, which would you spend eternity with?”
“Which of these would you be happier to offer to God?”
Beauty has to do with the whole self, not just the outer appearance.
Beauty has to do with what we most desire: the eternal and the spiritual.
The pursuit of eternal and spiritual beauty leads us to God.
I could find few satisfying resources on beauty in classical education, but one idea I found from James Cain struck me: Beauty is distance.
This resonated with me. Stars are beautiful; the heavens are beautiful; rolling cornfields under the blue sky are beautiful. Even things so small as to be distant are beautiful: cells under a microscope, tiny flowers, snowflakes.
It’s true: there is beauty in distance.
But the distances we’re looking are not far enough.
True beauty is found in the life of Christ. There is an unfathomable distance between us and God. As Isaiah 55 says, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so are my thoughts higher than your thoughts, and my ways that your ways.”
In the gospel, though, we can gaze on the beauty of Christ. We see that He crossed the immeasurable distance between his holiness and our sinfulness. He is our Emmanuel, our God with us. He took on the ugliness of our sin in exchange for His beauty.
Union with Christ is claiming His beauty in our lives. They beauty Christ invites us to claim isn’t an outward beauty. It’s the beauty of humility, of submission, and of love. The cross is beautiful because it’s the epitome of His love displayed for us.
As we put on this beauty in union with Christ, we are empowered to create beauty in the world. We believe this pattern when we think about Truth and Goodness: As we gaze on the Truth and goodness of Christ, we ask Him to help us live those traits. Can we do the same with beauty?
In Christ, we are freed to create beauty through our work and our leisure. We are not evaluated by the beauty of our products. Rather, we know that as we trust in Christ, our faithful efforts are made perfect in him.
At Trinity Classical Academy, we are seeking Christ’s beauty in our lives. We believe that as we are united with Him, we will see His beauty expressed in our school work, in our relationships, and in our actions. We trust that as we gaze on Him, we might be freed to desire and create beauty that honors Him.