>Do Something Beautiful for God: A Book Review

>A friend recently told me about a book that she said was “changing her life.” My friend is an artist, and also an Orthodox Christian, so of course I had to get it. And then I had to get two more copies to give as gifts for friends with upcoming birthdays. The book is called, Do Something Beautiful For God, by Anthony M. Coniaris. The quote on the front cover says, “Beauty will save the world.” – Dostoevsky

I would read any book with that quote on the cover. In fact, I used Dostoevsky’s words to emphasize the importance of iconography in an article I wrote for First Things, “Icons Will Save the World.” (Blog post about the article is here.)

Father Anthony is a Greek Orthodox priest, writer, and president of Light and Life Publishing. Honestly, I’ve not been a huge fan of his writing in the past, but this latest book is a jewel, in my opinion. Maybe it’s the short, crisp, almost devotional format of the book that’s so inviting. But the subject matter is the main draw for me, as an Orthodox Christian, a writer, and an iconographer.

Reflecting on quotes from Church fathers, like St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil the Great and others, and more modern writers like C. S. Lewis, Alexander Schmemann, Jim Forest, Archimandrite Vasileios, and others, Father Anthony brings together snippets from the writings of a diverse group of soulful thinkers. Here’s a brief sampling:

“The Secret of a Beautiful Complexion”

St. Basil wrote, “Is there anything more wonderful than Divine Beauty? Is there a more charming conception than that of the magnificence of God?” A lady once had such a lovely complexion that her friends asked her to tell them the secret of her beauty. She replied graciously,

I use for my lips, truth;
For my voice, prayer;
For my eyes, pity;
For my hands, charity;
For my figure, uprightness;
For my heart, love;
For my soul, faith in Jesus;
For my will, obedience to God’s will.
There is no substitute for “the beauty of the Lord.” No cosmetic can do for the face and the soul what the inner presence of God can do.
[p. 92, Do Something Beautiful for God]

I especially love the sections on art and iconography, like “Beauty in Icons,” and “Knowing God Through the Beauty of Icons”; also the pieces about art, “Yes, But is it Art?” and “Are There Standards For Art?” I explored these ideas in a blog post about a year ago—“The End of Art.”
Perhaps one of my favorite of Father Anthony’s entries is one called, “Broken to be More Beautiful.” It’s the story of an architect who designed the walls at the Royal Palace to be covered with sheets of beautiful mirrors from Paris. But when the glass arrived, it was broken. The architect took the broken pieces and glued them to the wall “until he had an enormous distortion in reflections, sparkling with a rainbow of brilliant colors!” The story reminded me of the book, Broken ForYou, about an artist who created works of art out of broken plates that belonged to an elderly woman with whom she lived.

While Coniaris talks about the beauty in Church architecture, music, literature, vestments and a myriad more venues, he also talks about how “Beautiful People Get Their Robes Stained,” and
“The Beauty of Scars”:

…at the places where I am broken, the power of Christ is authenticated in me. Where I have submitted to the crucifixion, the resurrection is placed on display in me…. The hurts of life have been the chisel that God has used to help make me and form me into His image, to lead me from woundedness to wholeness, to a life far richer than it would have been if I had not been wounded. My wounds, in His hands, become the way to theosis, union with God.
[p. 97, Do Something Beautiful for God]

And in another entry, “God is Sculpting Me,” he quotes C. S. Lewis as saying, “we think he is trying to make a few repairs, but His purpose is to turn us into a palace, a temple of the living God.”

I could go on and on, but I’ll let you discover the rest of the treasures in this short (173 pages) but powerful little book for yourself. You can order it here. I had planned to review two books in this post, but having reflected on the beauty of Father Anthony’s words, I think this one needs to stand alone. I’ll close with one of the quotes Father Anthony uses at the beginning of the book, one of what he calls, “Thoughts on the Theme”:

This Credo is very simple, here it is: to believe that nothing is more beautiful, profound, sympathetic, reasonable, manly, and more perfect than Christ…. And I say to myself with jealous love that not only is there no one else like Him, but that there could be no one.—Dostoevsky

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