In the troubled 1930s, a time of social and civil unrest, young English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge was sent by the Manchester Guardian to Moscow as a foreign correspondent.

At that time, Muggeridge, in his early 20s, was both a communist sympathizer and, although baptized in the Church of England, an agnostic.

Due to somewhat effective propaganda in the West, the great debate for journalists at that time was whether or not the Soviet government was deliberately imposing a famine upon the people of the Ukraine, who had experienced unspeakable hardships. Without permission, Muggeridge sneaked out of Moscow and journeyed to the Ukraine to investigate for himself.

His life took a dramatic turn one Sunday morning when, on impulse, he entered an Eastern Rite Catholic Church in Kiev while Mass was in progress. ­

Despite the Soviet-sponsored ­atheism, which was ruthlessly enforced, the congregation that day included young and old, peasants and townspeople, parents and children, and even a few soldiers in uniform.

In his subsequent autobiography, “Confessions of a 20th-Century Pilgrim,” Muggeridge wrote: “Never before or since have I participated in such worship; the sense conveyed of turning to God in great affliction is overpowering. Though I cannot follow the service word for word, I grasp its general theme — that there is no other recourse than to throw ourselves on God’s mercy and pray for His help.”

The utter simplicity of their Christian faith moved him deeply: “And so to God they turn, with passion, a dedication, a humility impossible to convey.” Subsequently, Muggeridge entered the Catholic Church.

In handing on our Catholic faith, there are few tools as powerful or as effective as the beauty of holiness and the sublime loveliness of the sacred liturgy. Perhaps Russia’s most esteemed novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky, got it right: “Beauty will save the world.”

The door to God is through beauty. Clearly, there is no more beautiful figure in history than the Son of Man, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the beauty of God in person. Even the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach introduced the theme of Christ’s ineffable beauty in his stirring Christmas Oratorio, one of his finest works. In this splendid musical composition, the Baroque master acclaimed the birth of “the most beautiful of all human beings.”

“Disarming Beauty: Essays on Faith, Truth and Freedom” is a recent book by Julian Carron, head of Communion and Liberation, a lay ecclesiastical community based in Italy. In the book, Carron raises the question, “Do we Christians still believe in the capacity of the faith we have received to attract those we encounter…[with] its disarming beauty?”

Carron quotes then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) in his eulogy at the funeral of Communion and Liberation founder Rev. Luigi Giussani: “He understood that Christianity is not an intellectual system, a packet of dogmas, a moralism; Christianity is rather an encounter, a love story; it is an event.”

The transmission of faith from the past into the present is more than the handing on of doctrine. It requires a repetition of the original experience in which the beauty of God seizes the soul, draws it to Him and utterly transforms the person.

No one denies that the ability to see and grasp that beauty requires a disposition prepared for it, a certain openness to let that beauty in. Pundits point out multiple tendencies in our culture which weaken that necessary perception and openness. Rather than surrendering to the obstacles, our faith demands that we spend our diminishing resources on trying to enhance the presentation of God’s beauty.  

Nowhere is this more relevant and effective than in a liturgy that conveys to its participants the underlying narrative of God’s love in the Scriptures — and, ultimately, the eucharistic vocation of every believer in the missionary destiny of the Church.

Perhaps we need an examination of conscience on our failures to move our prayer life beyond personal interests, entertainment or self-satisfaction — to recognize that we are a community, with responsibilities which extend beyond our personal needs and wants, not a haphazard gathering of mere individuals.

We are called to be the new Israel, the leaven which transforms the world. We are called to be a community of people who are committed to a love story which is irresistibly beautiful.

(Father Yanas and Dr. Martin are from Sacred Heart parish in Troy.)