I caught my breath, frozen, standing in the middle of the sidewalk, staring at the tree before me. Confused by its demanding presence, I wondered: Why has this tree caused me to stop? More importantly, by what force has this tree gained the ability to pull me closely enough to — stop?
Like most college students, my day was inundated with the demands of tests, papers, reading, and meetings that required my attention. Several attempted coffee dates with a friend and an overdue phone call with my mom had failed to compete against the busyness of school and work. Yet this tree, wordlessly, effortlessly, whisked me away from all that had kept me occupied. All of the day’s noisy bustle was, in an instant, hushed by the deafening silence of this tree. It demanded my full attention and appeared rightfully jealous of the time I had never before thought to give it. Its vibrant colors of fall and fortified unwavering stature seemed to shamelessly proclaim from its roots, “behold me.” I beheld this tree and was drawn into the mystery of its existence.
The splendor of the tree's beauty had been given by another. Its qualities were transcendent.
The tree's beauty pointed to a sublime reality that somehow divinized the time and space within which I was frozen. It was, as Hildebrand states so well, “the reflection of the inner excellence and dignity of one who exists.”  The radiance of this tree, spoken through its shining colors and unwavering stature, came from the one who brought it into its very existence. Its breathtaking beauty was a mere taste of the one who is all beauty, all perfection and all dignified reality. The force that had captivated me, I realized, was not simply the material qualities of this tree: hundreds and hundreds of radiant scarlet leaves. The material was the vehicle that directed me to the immaterial and was the language needed to communicate something greater. These immaterial qualities of the transcendent, as echoed through the tangible beauty before me, elevated me into a deeper reality.
The tree’s power, I realized, could not be fully understood as the sum of many material parts. There was something more, something other, something bigger, more beautiful, and more alive towards which this tree was pointing. Something was breaking through the visible and shining through dimly as though through a veil. This otherness, this beyondness is termed, transcendence, a pointing towards someone or something beyond.
In this moment of beholding, I had participated in the beauties of life that “have escaped from some higher sphere; [that] are the outpourings of eternal harmony in the medium of created sound; [that] are echoes of our home; [that] are the voice of angels, or the Magnificat of the Saints, or the Living Laws of Divine Governance, or Divine Attributes.”  Similar to the beauty found in a well orchestrated piece of music by Beethoven or Bach, the tree had become my window to heaven. By its splendor, this tree had drawn temporal reality into the integrated beauty of all creation by virtue of its Creator. I was now participating in the symphonic music of heaven whose song always reflects and points to the beauty of God.
The beauty of this tree, as is true of all beauty we encounter, is evidence of the one who is all beauty itself. The One who is all beautiful is boundless and makes His beauty known in the very things He creates. Whether a tree, the moonlit sky, or the face of another, all beauty is worth beholding by nature of the One who has given that beauty.
As threatening as busy schedules may be, do not let them alter the necessity of beholding the beautiful. If beauty calls to you, as did this tree, answer it. For the beauty worth beholding efficaciously makes the soul who beholds it more beautiful itself. Transcendent beauty is our window to heaven. It is worth pausing time to behold.
 Cardinal Newman’s University Sermons, XV, page 92
Image 4: Photo by Matthew Seal Junior