My second novel has just been released by Lingua Sacra Publishing! The Kindle edition of The Other Side of the Bonfire is now available! Click here to download your copy! Readers in the United Kingdom can obtain a copy here. Paperback and Nook editions will be available within 48 hours! Continue Reading →
“Beauty will save the world,” wrote Dostoevsky in The Idiot, first published serially in 1868-1869.
Many Orthodox writers and thinkers have since used the phrase. I encountered it about 25 years ago in a book by Paul Evdokimov, and it never left me. At the time, I was just discovering Orthodoxy; but I had been exposed to art for many years and was doing a bit of drawing and painting myself.
After two world wars, numerous ecological disasters, and ugly terrorist acts all over our planet, we may be tempted to despair. But I believe “beauty will save the world.”
To attract your attention, whether on paper, on the little screen or on your monitor, the media focus almost exclusively on ugliness and catastrophes. But beauty will save the world.
Now an official member of the Orthodox Church, I believe in the saving beauty of Christ’s redeeming death and Resurrection.
I also believe that following Christ means participating in His redeeming work, at many levels. I will only speak here about one level. As an Orthodox believer, I feel particularly called to spread beauty in our world. And I strive to do it through my artwork and my writing.
Born from French parents gifted with talents for drawing and painting, I started painting in grade school; I even remember nailing old sheets on a piece of wood to make my own “canvas.” I was not 10 at the time.
A few years later, an art teacher introduced me to the fascinating world of colors, and I attended weekly art classes until university. After some low years in art production, I discovered rock painting. I have now been painting almost exclusively on rocks for 10 years. I paint things I find beautiful and believe will introduce beauty in the life of others. Seeing the joy of my customers when they discover my rocks brings me a lot of hope, as they have a glimpse that everything may not be rotten and in our world.
Beauty will save the world.
I paint birds, flowers, landscapes, etc, memorial rocks for deceased pets, from pictures taken by the pet owner, and icons and Orthodox stain-glass style designs.
Beauty will save the world.
God’s saving Beauty was made visible in the flesh: “The Word was made flesh.” John 1:14. We have access to this multi-faceted beauty in our daily contact with the Word in the Scriptures.
I believe we can find and propagate beauty not only through visual arts, but also through The Word and words. I have loved words since I was about 4, when I started reading by myself. Since then, I have grown into a passionate lover of words and books.
It is not only fascinating to read, but also to share with others the beauty I find in books, whether they are fiction or non-fiction works. I started a book blog a year ago, and it has been a deep experience to interact with others on the beauty and depth of words. I entitled my blog Words And Peace, to convey the idea that you can reach some peaceful depth in yourself through reading and sharing, and of course I could not miss the opportunity of introducing a pun, on War And Peace, as you would all have guessed. My blog’s address is: http://wordsandpeace.wordpress.com. The last Orthodox book I reviewed was:
You can read my review here.
I write a lot every month through my translation work of articles and books, mostly from English to French, and occasionally from French to English. The world of translation is absolutely fascinating. I deeply believe we still need bridges in our global world. The image of the world as a village is still a myth, not exactly yet part of our daily reality: we still need help communicating with each other on our planet, and that is the beautiful role of translators, among others. The more we understand each other, the easier we will be at peace. I believe part of my mission as an Orthodox believer is to be a “beauty and peace maker,” by helping people understand each other.
I believe I contribute to this bridge building also through my online French classes, geared to students of all levels, from total beginners to Ph. D. students and proficient learners who just want to keep up with their French conversation skills.
Beauty will save the world.
More creatively, I have given lots of conferences focused mainly on monastic spirituality, both for Western and Eastern Christians. Some of these conferences I have published as articles. The most relevant to our topic here is my article on Gregory Palamas. Discovering that few Western Christians knew about him, I tried to write an accessible presentation of his life and works. I initially wrote and published it in French, then in English and Spanish. The English version is available in the Cistercian Studies Quarterly 37:3 (2002): 303-333 .
Who better than Gregory Palamas wrote about the beauty and depth of our faith? I discovered Gregory through the mystery of the Transfiguration back in the late 80s, and since then I have striven to propagate this beauty.
And last but not least, I published a book a few years ago focused on light. Early on, I discovered that as much as Eastern Fathers and Mothers, writers pertaining to the Western Christian tradition focused a lot on the topic of light. I decided then to publish an anthology of short spiritual texts related to the theme of light in Cistercian Fathers and Mothers:
A Light to Enlighten the
Darkness: Daily Readings for Meditation during the Winter Season Selected by Emma Cazabonne (Cistercian
Publications, 2008) ISBN: 978-0-87907-227-8
Beauty will save the world.
Some of our contemporaries may think beauty, whether in art or in words, is something totally irrelevant to our busy and efficient modern world, where the main goal seems sometimes to make money and buy things. Just as we need our daily bread, I believe that more than ever, we need our daily portion of beauty to survive and thrive.
To paraphrase a passage by Nina Sankovitch in her latest book Tolstoy and The Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading (Harper: 2011), I wish for all of us that beauty may become “an escape, not from, but into living.”
Note: I am referring to this passage:
“Cyril Connolly, twentieth-century writer and critic, wrote that ‘words are alive and literature becomes an escape, not from, but into living.’ That was how I wanted to use books: as an escape back to life. I wanted to engulf myself in books and come up whole again.” p.20
Emma Cazabonne is a French tutor, an English-French translator, and a rockpainter. She was born in France and has been living in the US for 10 years. After 20 years as a Trappistine nun, she converted to Orthodoxy. With her husband, a clinical counselor combining Orthodox spiritual elements and psychological principles in his practice, she attends a small ROCOR parish in the Chicagoland.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed, misunderstood, and confused about life? Do you get in fights with your parents and feel stressed out and frustrated about everything? Do you wish you had someone to talk to who understands and doesn’t judge you? Well, this is the kind of thing Lydia is going through the summer before she turns eighteen and becomes an adult. Lydia’s family converts to Orthodox Christianity without her, one of her best friends gets pregnant, and her comfortingly familiar life is falling apart as she gets ready to leave home for college. Lydia desperately needs a friend—and she finds one in the most surprising place: an icon of St. Lydia. Lydia tells the saint everything she is going through in her letters to St. Lydia, who invisibly answers, guiding her through the difficult times in her life with deep love and compassion.
Letters to Saint Lydia, by Melinda Johnson, is a book I connected to a lot (literally) because there is a girl in the story named Eleni who actually reminds me of myself. I was able to connect to Eleni’s personality and also to some of the Greek culture Eleni brings into the story because I am one quarter Greek and a lot of the things in this book had to do with some cultural things that are very similar to my family. When Lydia finally leaves home for college, she meets her new roommate, who happens to be Greek Orthodox, the Greek form of the religion her parents have just converted to. Her new roommate, Eleni, quickly becomes Lydia’s closest friend (besides St. Lydia) and helps guide and support Lydia through the challenges she deals with in college as well as in her spiritual struggles. For example, when Lydia gets a boyfriend who she thinks she’s in love with, Eleni tries to help Lydia to see what he’s really like and after the boyfriend attacks and leaves Lydia, Eleni is nothing but understanding and supportive and gets Lydia back to her normal self.
My evaluation of Lydia is that she is courageous and intelligent because even when she is questioning everything she thought she knew and she is confused about so many things, she keeps her head on her shoulders and never gives up or stops trying to find the whole truth. When she begins writing letters to Saint Lydia, she is skeptical and doesn’t even know whether or not she believes the saint exists, but still is comforted to pour her troubles out on the paper. She tells St. Lydia that she won’t pray to God or anything until she completely believes in Him, which I think is smart of her because I don’t think it’s a good idea to worship anything or anyone until you know for sure that it is the right thing to do. Later Lydia realizes that Saint Lydia really is reading her letters and has been giving her good advice and encouragement all along; Lydia is finally able to appreciate how much they really helped her through, even though she didn’t even know they were there at the time. I also thought Lydia was a good friend, because even when her friend Trella gets pregnant and isn’t able to go to college, Lydia still keeps in touch with her, comes to visit her all the way from college, and supports her through the extremely tough time of her pregnancy.
After I read the beginning of this book, I predicted that Lydia would meet some good new friends at college. It said how anxious she was to leave and I thought that she would probably end up meeting new friends who she would become closer to. I also predicted that she would meet someone else who was Orthodox who would inspire her. Both of my predictions were true because Lydia met Eleni, who was Orthodox and became a close friend of Lydia’s.
I really didn’t have a whole lot of questions while reading Letters to Saint Lydia, because the story was pretty clear and straightforward. As I read the first few pages, though, I did wonder if Saint Lydia would really answer Lydia’s letters and if Lydia would actually be able to read the saint’s letters. After reading a little further, I clarified that Saint Lydia was answering Lydia’s letters, but Lydia didn’t realize it until after she fully believed in Saint Lydia’s existence. I also was curious to know if Lydia and her mom would ever get along well, because their personalities seemed to clash
and they fought a lot before Lydia left for college. Later in the story, they started to connect more strongly and get closer. They ended up getting along much better when Lydia had her freedom and was out of the house, because Lydia’s mom didn’t have to tell her what to do all the time and Lydia didn’t feel so belittled and bossed around by her mother.
My final evaluation of this book is that it is a story many teenagers can connect to, even if they are not Orthodox or even Christian, because it is written in an understandable and interesting way. Even if people are going through different things than Lydia in their lives, some of the problems she has as she’s going to college and officially becoming an adult may be very similar to other teen’s struggles.
Letters to Saint Lydia is 207 pages long and there are many other characters besides Lydia, Saint Lydia, Eleni, and Trella. Some of them are Paul, Maria Louisa, Lauren, Jill, “Pogo”, and Jude. For example, towards the beginning of the story, Lydia’s best friends are Maria Louisa, Lauren, Jill, and Trella, who are on the high school volleyball team with her. Lydia refers to all of them as her
“volleyball family” and is very close to them up until college. However, later on in the book, as all their lives are changing and they don’t spend as much time together as before, Lydia begins to grow closer to Trella and Maria Louisa, but grows more distant with her friends Lauren and Jill. I think that this goes with the theme of the story, which is about a girl who is growing up and finding out who she is and what she believes in. In Letters to Saint Lydia, Lydia finds out who her true friends are and what is really important in life.