Beauty and the Beast is a timeless tale that many of us cherish from our childhood. As with all good fairy stories, there are layers of meaning and analogy that can be gleaned from it.
But have you ever considered it under the lens of evangelization? When taken as a story of the conversion of the Beast through the beauty, Belle, it reminds us of several key factors we need to keep in mind to properly engage beauty when we evangelize.
1. Belle’s disposition, from the start, is one of wonder and openness
As with all evangelization, it starts not with the other person, but with ourselves. Belle maintains receptivity even in the midst of trauma and pain (being separated from her father, being imprisoned). Her receptivity preserves her ability to see the beautiful in her surroundings and in others. In turn, this keeps her heart open to love even in unexpected places.
This is a great reminder for us today. We must remain open and receptive to the conversion of our heart. Without receptivity, we cannot hope to recognize beauty, love, or the need of love in others. Receptivity allows us to authentically reach them!
2. Selfishness stands in the way of beauty
The Prince’s selfishness led to his inability to see beauty in hidden places. It also caused his transformation from prince to beast. Conversely, growing in generosity and selfless love opened his heart to a deeper and richer experience of beauty and love
Each time the Beast either cares for Belle, or allows her to care for him, his heart is transformed. Every time he encounters her beauty a little more deeply, he is left a little more open to love.
The key is that each act is selfless. His selfish acts do not cause transformation (imprisoning Belle, forcing her to come to dinner); his selfless acts (saving her from the wolves, giving her gifts, allowing her to go home to her father) do.
3. Belle chooses to act in love and sensitivity towards the Beast
This choice enables her to go deeper and deeper in seeing the hidden beauty in the Beast. This act of the will, this choosing of love, further opens her heart to loving him.
4. Beauty is dangerous when it is idolized
Gaston’s self-centered grasping at what he sees as beautiful twists his soul. Far from leading him towards a higher love, propels him towards sin and malice.
This unfortunately leads to his death. Gaston’s death is symbolic of the greater death of the soul when it turns from God and takes the beautiful but temporal things of this earth, not as icons of the love and beauty of the Father.
When twisted in this way, beauty becomes an idol that blind us to Him. For beauty to retain its fullness, it must always be expressed and pursued in connection with truth and goodness.
5. Beauty can heal
When beauty points us to genuine love, it brings healing – and healing is transformation!