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"In the third place there is the physical, visible, palpable beauty of Christ.

"This can be sub-divided: supernatural beauty, which His most holy flesh was granted in His glorification. It is to configuration with this that our body aspires; and to this it must be brought, when, in the resurrection that is to come our humble body will--according to the apostle's promise (Ph 3:21)--made like to the Body of His Glory. But first we must be conformed to the Passion of Christ and to His crucifixion.

"But the natural beauty of Christ's Body, when He lived on earth, was so great, so lovely, that of it the psalmist sang: 'You are beautiful above the sons of men' (Ps 44:3). For perfect physical beauty, there are three requirements. The first is that the body should be tall and shapely; the second is that the parts of the body should be in due proportion; the third is good, healthy, clear colouring. As we read in the second chapter of Augustine's City of God: physical beauty consists in the graceful formation of the body and in a sort of splendour of complexion. In the eleventh chapter of the City he says: Beauty does not consist in great size, but in the regularity of the features and the proper proportion of the members. Certain people lovingly claim that this was the beauty that was eminently Christ's, above the beauty of all the sons of men.

"Firstly, because, as Chrysostom says, those things that are supernaturally made by divine power, are the more perfect. Now, we know that Christ's Body was formed by the Holy Spirit in a most singular and supernatural way. By that same Spirit it was knitted together, built up, given its shape and form, so obviously it is the most beautiful. In the second place, you have to remember that He was fashioned out of the very purest material, that is to say, the most sacred blood of the Blessed Virgin. In the third place, all natural perfections, whether of body or soul, resided in Him. In the fourth place, seeing that His soul was the most beautiful of all souls, it was appropriate that His body should be the most beautiful of all bodies. In fact, Augustine in his letter to Dioscorus, says that there existed in the soul of Christ such a plenitude of grace, that some of it flowed into the lower realms of His soul and into His flesh. In this way, the very flesh of the Saviour took on a marvellous clarity, and would have been incapable of suffering or death only that a divine dispensation ordained otherwise.

"In the fourth place, we come to the moral beauty of Christ; and here I speak of the charm and delightfulness of His manners and bearing. Every member of his body was regulated by utmost dignity and modesty.

"Regarding the two latter forms of beauty, we read in the Annals of the Romans, that Jesus was of handsome figure, medium height, and distinguished appearance. There was an awesome quality about His face that made those who looked upon Him either love Him or fear Him. His hair was of a light colour, like that of a chestnut before it ripens, and was straight almost to His ears, after which it fell in curls to His shoulders and was of a deeper more brilliant hue. His hair was parted in the middle, as is the custom with Nazarenes. His forehead was smooth and serene, His face without spot or wrinkle and illumined by a lovely complexion. His nose and ears were regular. His abundant beard, which was similar in colour to His hair, was forked and not long. His expression was guileless and mature. His eyes were a blue-grey, brilliant and shining, varying with His mood. When He rebuked, He was terrible; when He admonished, He was gentle and lovable. He was cheerful though He sometimes wept; He never laughed. He was well grown and erect; His arms and hands were marvellously graceful. In speech He was grave, and His words were few and courteous.

"Such is His description, and you will readily agree that He merited to be called 'beautiful above the sons of men.'"

--Dionysius (Denis) the Carthusian (d. 1471), Contemplation, bk. 1, section 55, trans. Íde M. Ní Riain, in Spiritual Writings (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2005), pp. 91-92.


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