True beauty is always manifested in love, and it is that beauty that Christians around the world will celebrate tomorrow, January 6, in the festival of Epiphany.

It is not only the beauty of Christ, but his church, that we celebrate.

Hers is not a beauty of breathtaking cathedrals, stained glass, or towering arches, but of a body. A woman’s body that is bone of bone, flesh of flesh, with God.

She is the virgin adorned for her husband, bejeweled with jasper and sapphire and pearls. Clad in robes bleached white in the blood of her husband, she is all glorious, having no spot or wrinkle. She is clothed with the sun, and the moon is beneath her feet. Kings and nations bow down before her, bringing her gold and silver.

All that is her husband’s is hers. She is beautiful beyond beauty.

The church is the bride of Jesus, who is the incarnation of love and beauty.

This is forgotten, for we have eyes only to see the ugly. And, in truth, the ugly we long to see.

We see the white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones rattling around in butt polished pews. We see heresies by which the church is rent asunder into sects beyond name and number. We see a wrinkled, wizened hag with sagging breasts and bad breath wheezing out bygone platitudes at a world unsalvageable in its mad pursuit of the latest lecheries.

And we see men manhandling her into clinics to botox her, give her a boob job, whiten her teeth, rip her abs, and tighten her ass until, once again, she can make a sinner look twice. Yes, we see the ugly, and those who would render her a plastic church full of plastic believers who will—Lord, have mercy—melt when the flames of persecution burn.

The church is the bride of Jesus, who is the incarnation of love and beauty. She cannot be perfected, for she is already perfect. Her loveliness never wanes, for the life of God pulses in her veins, fills her breasts with the milk of mercy, and adorns that face that could launch a thousand hopes.

This is the church. And there is no other.