The Beauty of Sacrifice: What We Must Always Remember About 9/11

The Japanese symbol for beauty is made up of two Chinese symbols: “sheep” and “great.”
Beauty is a great sheep.

Japanese artist Makoto Fujimura has helped me better understand this is his book Refractions:A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture.
In the book, Fujimura explains how in the Japanese culture, the concept of beauty became associated with sacrifice.

A banquet and feast can be a “beautiful” thing, but as Fujimura points out, in order to have a feast an animal must be sacrificed. Likewise, leaves are most beautiful just before they die in the autumn.
Fujimura, who lives only blocks from ground zero in Manhattan, began writing about “the supreme act of beauty” created in the sacrifice of the rescuers on 9/11.

Fujimura then quotes Dr. Tomonobu Imamichi, professor of aesthetics at Tokyo University who writes

In comparing beauty and goodness, I consider beauty to be the more transcendent of the two.  The ideogram of “goodness”() is made up of two ideograms; one of a sacrificial “sheep” () on top of an ideogram of a “box.” () To be good, it is only necessary to fulfill pre-determined (a “box”) sacrifice determined by society.  Paying taxes, or participating in traditions, rituals and such.  The ideogram of “righteousness”() is made up of ideograms of sacrificial “Sheep”()  on top  of “Self.”() It means to carry the sacrifices yourself.  But the ideogram of Beauty is made up of the sacrificial sheep on top of an ideogram for “Great” (), which I infer to mean “greater sheep”.  It connotes a greater sacrifice, a sacrifice that cannot be boxed in by rituals or self.  This greater sacrifice may require sacrifice of one’s own life to save the lives of others.  This sacrifice is not enforced by rules nor is it predetermined, but originates from self-initiative, a willing sacrifice.  This is what is truly beautiful.
Jesus Christ – the Lamb of God slain for the foundation of the world – is the “Great Sheep.” His sacrifice for all mankind was beauty personified.

On September 11, 2001 and the days, weeks and months after, we witnessed this same kind of beauty unfold in front of us as men and women sacrificed for the sake of others.
In 1931, American author F Scott Fitzgerald sat on the roof of the Empire State Building and prophesied to a nation

From the ruins, lonely and inexplicable as the sphinx, rose the Empire State Building and, just as it had been a tradition of mine to climb to the Plaza Roof to take leave of the beautiful city, extending as far as eyes could reach, so now I went to the roof of the last and most magnificent of towers. Then I understood — everything was explained: I had discovered the crowning error of the city, its Pandora's box. Full of vaunting pride the New Yorker had climbed here and seen with dismay what he had never suspected, that the city was not the endless succession of canyons that he had supposed but that it had limits — from the tallest structure he saw for the first time that it faded out into the country on all sides, into an expanse of green and blue that alone was limitless. And with the awful realization that New York was a city after all and not a universe, the whole shining edifice that he had reared in his imagination came crashing to the ground.
The ugliness of pride has always been, and will always be the greatest enemy to beauty. Self-sacrifice and humility are foundational characteristics of Christianity, and when practiced actually create beauty.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins,
repairing cities destroyed long ago.
They will revive them,
though they have been deserted for many generations.

-          Isaiah 61.1-4


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