Monday, March 03, 2014

Makeup (part 1) - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series. You may also want to read my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"Nor are the women to smear their faces with the ensnaring devices of wily cunning. But let us show to them the decoration of sobriety. For, in the first place, the best beauty is that which is spiritual, as we have often pointed out. For when the soul is adorned by the Holy Spirit, and inspired with the radiant charms which proceed from Him,—righteousness, wisdom, fortitude, temperance, love of the good, modesty, than which no more blooming colour was ever seen" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Beauty, first and foremost, is from within. If we desire to be beautiful, then we must first turn our attention to our inward person, to judge our true spiritual condition, and then to diligently apply ourselves to the things that make for real spiritual health. A woman who has joy, peace, generosity, and righteousness in her heart shines forth with a beauty that cannot be compared to in all of God's created world. While it is true, when compared to the Lilly's of the field, that "not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these." (Matthew 6:29) yet a woman who has the Kingdom of God shining through her is even more splendorous tan this for she shines with a beauty that is eternal and is from God.
"then let coporeal beauty be cultivated too, symmetry of limbs and members, with a fair complexion. The adornment of health is here in place, through which the transition of the artificial image to the truth, in accordance with the form which has been given by God, is effected. But temperance in drinks, and moderation in articles of food, are effectual in producing beauty according to nature; for not only does the body maintain its health from these, but they also make beauty to appear." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Having extolled the superiority of inner beauty, Clement does not discount or disregard outward beauty as well. However, he begins with the premise that we have all been made beautiful since we have been made is God's image. God is beautiful, therefore all those created in His image are also beautiful. Given that we have all been created beautiful, such beauty of form is best seen when we are healthy and maintain healthy habits along with moderation and temperance. Temperance in food and drink is important, however, when taken to an extreme, where it begins to affect our health, it weakens the body and serves only to hide beauty not to accentuate it. There is a vast difference between temperance and eating disorders, one serving the health and, thus, the beauty of the body, and the other destroying the very thing it seeks to achieve.
"Beauty is the free flower of health; for the latter is produced within the body; while the former, blossoming out from the body, exhibits manifest beauty of complexion. Accordingly, these most decorous and healthful practices, by exercising the body, produce true and lasting beauty... For the labour of their own hands, above all, adds genuine beauty to women, exercising their bodies and adorning themselves by their own exertions." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Along with moderation in food and drink, exercise is also important as it allows the true form of the body, as it was created by God, to be seen. It is important to note that Clement is not referring to hours spent in the Gym, rather often an active and productive lifestyle can contribute all the exercise required to maintain our health and beauty.

Exercise and healthy habits do not create beauty, but merely allow the beauty we have been created with to more accurately be seen. However, we must always remember that even bodily beauty will be deemed as nothing unless it is accompanied by inner beauty. James says, "the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body." (James 3:6) I have know beautiful women who suddenly turn ugly when they open their mouth! Outward beauty can only serve to complement inward beauty and can never compensate for an ugly heart. "First clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also." (Matthew 23:26) As with righteousness, so is beauty.

David Robison

No comments:

Post a Comment