How Beautiful

How Beautiful October 20, 2012

Attention: I’m about to FALL ALL OVER a CCM song, so in the future, whenever someone lambastes me for being a “CCM hater,” I’ll just keep linking back to this post. Enjoy.
[Update: Just remembered I had planned to embed this amazing live performance. It’s preceded by some great words from Twila.]

The song is one that many of you probably know well, but I didn’t hear it until a few years back. I was already a Twila Paris fan, so I was like “How have I possibly not heard THIS one yet?” But that’s kind of how I’ve always listened to music—just song-hopping/album-hopping, and I hadn’t happened to “hop” over to that one yet. And not having grown up in an evangelical church community, I’d never heard it done as special music or anything. Anyway, I can vividly remember the first time I listened to it, I was sitting in a coffee shop browsing on imeem (RIP) with headphones on. When this came on, it was all I could do not to break down right there in my little corner of the coffee shop like a blubbering idiot. Since then it’s become a favorite that bears many, many listenings without ever getting old.
For one thing, the structure is brilliant. Not only is the move from Christ’s actual body to the church body at the half-way point a simple stroke of genius, but if you listen carefully she actually makes the two halves mirror each other in terms of which body part is being described (hands, feet, eyes, etc.) The first verse begins with Christ’s hands: “How beautiful the hands that served the wine, and the bread, and the sons of the earth.” Then it moves to his feet, then in the second verse to his heart and eyes respectively. After that comes the bridge, then we’re into the Church section. And what do we begin with? The “radiant bride, who waits for her groom with his light in her…” what? Eyes! We’re picking right up where we left off, except now we’re going backwards, because this is the next line:
How beautiful when humble hearts give
The fruit of pure lives so that others may live
See the pattern? And then after the key change, we have the feet of those who bring “the sound of good news and the love of the King,” and finally, of course, “the hands that serve the wine, and the bread, and the sons of the earth,” which is exactly the same as the first line except with the alteration from “served” to “serve.”
It’s so simple, yet so clean and perfect it could easily have been a “Poetry in Song” entry. But I wanted to talk a little more about what the lyrics meant personally to me. I think that the line about humble hearts giving the fruit of pure lives so that others may live has always been the one that really gets me. I’m sure we could all think of people we know or know of who match that description very well. It can refer to a myriad of things. But in my mind, I’ve always thought it connected especially well with adoption. It makes sense. God purifies and prepares the right hearts and the right families to give back the fruit of their lives in a choice they don’t have to make. Why? So that others may live, those “others” being the children they welcome into their hearts and homes.
A lot of us would probably think of Steven Curtis Chapman in connection with this, and I know I immediately thought of his family’s choice when I first heard this song, especially after his adopted daughter’s tragic death. There are others as well. Recently, I found a beautiful clip of Jim Caviezel talking about two children with brain tumors whom he and his wife adopted from China. He’s known for being shy and soft-spoken, but he’s also known for his rare sincerity and purity of spirit, something which always left his Hollywood peers equal parts baffled and awed. That definitely comes through very strongly here. Perhaps  self-consciously echoing Mother Theresa, Caviezel says, “The world tells me ‘Hey you know what, those children, they’re unwanted.’ And I say, ‘Well, I want them.'”
The best part is when he says his children make him beautiful. You can kind of tell that he briefly wonders whether it came off sounding wrong, but it has such a sweet, lovely innocence to it. And of course, it fits perfectly with this post. For those who may be wondering, both Bo and Lele survived their cancer, and I found this March 2011 report on Bo’s reception of a gymnastics award. Three years after this interview was filmed, they welcomed little brother Patrick David, also adopted from China.
[Note: To any readers who might feel compelled to say that Caviezel is Catholic, therefore he’s not part of the church, therefore etc. etc… we’re not going to go there. Thank you.]

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • What a beautiful song and I love the interview. I’ve always thought Jim Caviezel to be one of the most gentle and honest actors. 🙂

  • My sister had “How Beautiful” sung at her wedding last year. 🙂

  • Yes, indeed. Not only a true professional who’s just plain good at what he does, but a good guy. When he was being crowded by cameras at the premiere party for his break-through film _The Thin Red Line_, fellow star Sean Penn took a moment to slip his arm around him and say “I don’t know how you’re going to last in this business. You don’t fit in.” Mel Gibson famously told him that after he did _The Passion_ he would “never work in this town again.” Caviezel just replied, “We all have our crosses to bear.” A great answer!

  • It’s sung at lots of weddings. Probably because of the radiant bride part. 🙂

  • Beth

    “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see GOD”

  • Amen!

  • Lydia

    When I hear the last verse I picture men serving Holy Communion all over the world to people of every nation who have accepted Jesus because of the “beautiful feet” that brought the Good News.
    It’s a pretty simple play on words, but it really does a lot in the song–the double meaning of “serve” in “the hands that serve the wine and the bread and the sons of the earth.”