The soul that marvels at the beauties of the material world shows that inside it lives the vain world; that’s why it is attracted by the creature and not by the Creator, by earth and not by God. It doesn’t matter if this earth is clean or has the mud of sin.
When the heart is attracted by the worldly beauties – even if they are not sinful, they don’t stop being vain – it feels the worldly joy of that moment, without having the divine comfort, the inner wings given by the spiritual joy. But when the man loves the spiritual beauty, then his soul is filled and beautified.
If the man and especially the monk knew his inner ugliness, wouldn’t care about the exterior beauties. The soul has inside itself so many stains, so many splotches and we worry about our clothes for instance? We wash our clothes, we iron them and we are clean but inside we are…better not ask about it! That’s why if someone saw what a dirtiness he has inside himself he wouldn’t be so concerned to remove the smallest stain from his clothes because these are much cleaner than his soul.
But if the man doesn’t care about the spiritual slag he has inside, then he is preoccupied to remove carefully the smallest exterior stain. But what he should do would be to turn his whole care towards his spiritual scour, towards the inner beauty, not towards the exterior one. It should be given primacy to the beauty of soul, to the spiritual beauty, not to the vain one, because the Lord said:
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matthew 16:26)
Pious Paissios the Athonite