Desert Fathers on Beauty

A story told by the Desert Fathers:

As a group of bishops was meeting in Antioch, a procession of actresses passed by. Among them was the first and most beautiful of actresses bedecked with extravagantly beautiful robes and jewels. As she rode by, bare of head and shoulders with not so much as a veil upon her, the bishops groaned and turned away their heads as from a great sin.

But one of the bishops, Nonnus, did not turn his eyes away from her. Rather, he gazed upon her intently and said to the other bishops, “Did not the sight of her beauty delight you?”

The bishops answered him nothing. Nonnus persisted and said, “I was greatly delighted with her beauty and I believe that God will one day set her in judgment upon us and our episcopate. How many hours has this woman spent in her chamber, bathing and adoring herself that there may be no stain in all her body’s beauty. All of this in order to please men! And yet we who have the greatest of all lovers, the splendid Bridegroom upon Whom the Cherubim dare not look, we adorn not our souls and care not so much as to wash the filth from our miserable souls.