It’s time to reclaim the quest for Eden

I once read in Father Karl Stehlin’s “The Nature, Dignity, and Mission of Women” that when God created women, “He made her with a memory of Eden.” It is for this reason that women are so drawn to beauty. Searching and cherishing the things that are whole, pure and, ultimately, things that remind us of a vanished world.

It is in that memory we discover a faint imprint of heaven.

It is through beauty that we long for fulfillment, love and wholeness.

This longing transcends the realm of the material — the chaos of progress — because it’s not concerned with what’s efficient, but rather it seeks to tap into the eternal.

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Through this lens, the iconic trope of women brightening over a bouquet of flowers, eager to fill up empty vases, makes sense.

Flower arrangements, in their short lives, have nothing to do with progress and everything to do with beauty. They remind us that sometimes we need to push against the loud waves of worldly advancements and just revel in the good. Yes, it is good to stop and smell the roses.

Where did beauty go?

Today, confined by a colorless world of efficiency, beauty seems almost irrelevant. Our buildings are drab and our modern fashion trends a cacophony of sterility and beige.

Where did beauty go?

Perhaps, we’ve purposely expunged beauty; after all, we find in it a reminder to slow down.

Life isn’t just about doing and productivity. There is something beyond the material. Busyness and productivity are meant to serve rather than be an end.

But how much of our lives are centered around busyness? As Anthony Esolen writes in “Out of the Ashes”: “The Sabbath is not for the other days of the week. The truly human and divine thing is to see the other days of the week in light of the Sabbath, and not the Sabbath as a day for replenishing the human material so that it can work on Monday. The Sabbath is the Lord’s Day, not the slave driver’s day.”

The reality is, when we lose sight of our quest for Eden, for home, we lose sight of the divine.

We began to herald science and work as gods, rather than living our lives in the light of eternity. The consequences are cataclysmic: How many of us fail to truly forgo the pressures of time for beauty, genuine leisure and prioritizing the hidden life of the family?

Not useful, but good

But part of doing so is embedded into our feminine nature. Women are the beauty makers and beauty restorers. Seeking glory in the mundane, turning houses into homes, setting a beautiful table before nourishing a family, relishing teacups and the pretty little things of life.

The pretty little things aren’t useful, but they are good.

Many women, without ever having been told, comprehend this on some level. Whether it’s spending a little extra time gift wrapping to make sure what will soon be ripped to shreds is lovely; or setting aside the afternoon for baking scones or artisan breads, not because they’re necessary but because they’re good. There is something about these slow rituals, providing comfort, warmth and encouraging us to be creative, that sustains us.

Father Stelhin reminds us that: “The more achievements civilization has to offer, the more it draws man’s sights down to earth, so that he takes them more seriously than they really deserve. Therefore in order to restore the interior equilibrium, there must be on earth witnesses to eternity.”

It’s a message our progress-oriented and ever-advancing technological society needs to hear. Our souls weren’t created for the grind, we were created for heaven. And our lives should reflect this message.

Yes, we need to work, but the most precious things in life aren’t about utility. They’re about love.

Our purpose is love

In God’s eyes, we aren’t useful; we aren’t needed. God doesn’t need us to exist. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states at the very beginning: “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness, freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life” (No. 1).

Instead, we are profoundly loved. Yes, God doesn’t require us, but he loves us and desires our salvation. His love for us has nothing to do with utility. We don’t have to prove ourselves by material accomplishments; we simply have to respond to his love.

We can understand this by looking at a mother who loves her baby. She loves her baby not because the baby can fix her car or help her catch up on the cleaning (in fact, the opposite will most likely occur), but because that baby is good and worthy of love.

It makes sense that when society worships science and efficiency, we lose sight of a woman’s inner mission: to slow down and make time for beauty.

When we slow down, we have time to remember our search for heaven.

We discover that utility and progress can only take us so far because there is actually something far more important than worldly gain, and that is love.

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