The Beauty of Christ And the Deformed


St. Maria Skobtsova (d. 1945AD) understood well that the beauty and truth of the Orthodox Liturgy comes alive in believers when they show love and compassion to the poor and needy.   She discerned correctly that if Christ was confined to the church building and liturgical services, the lives of believers would remain untouched by divinity.  And she recognized the temptation in Orthodoxy to keep the doors of the church closed in order to preserve the antiquity and protect the pure museum quality of the liturgical pomp and church accouterments.   She wrote:

“The eyes of love will perhaps be able to see how Christ Himself departs, quietly and invisibly, from the sanctuary that is protected by a splendid iconostasis. The singing will continue to resound, clouds of incense will still rise, the faithful will be overcome by the ecstatic beauty of the services. But Christ will go out on to the church steps and mingle with the crowd: the poor, the lepers, the desperate, the embittered, the holy fools. Christ will go out into the streets, the prisons, the hospitals, the low haunts and dives. Again and again Christ lays down his soul for his friends. What are our beauty and our ugliness in comparison with Christ, His eternal truth and eternal beauty? Or is it not the reverse? Does He not see in our ugliness, in our impoverished lives, in our festering sores, in our crippled souls – does He not see there His own divine image and a reflection of his eternal glory and eternal beauty? And so He will return to the churches and bring with Him all those whom He has summoned to the wedding feast, has gathered from the highways, the poor and the maimed, prostitutes and sinners.

mercytoChristThe most terrible thing is that it may well be that the guardians of beauty, those who study and understand the world’s beauty, will not comprehend Christ’s beauty, and will not let Him into the church because behind Him there will follow a crowd of people deformed by sin, by ugliness, drunkenness, depravity, and hate. Then their chant will fade away in the air, the smell of incense will disperse, and Someone will say to them: ‘I was hungry and you gave me no food. I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ ”

(Mother Maria Skobtsova: Essential Writings, p 161)