The God Whose Presence
"When I look at your heavens,
the work of your fingers
.....what are human beings
that you are mindful of them?"
When I look up at the sky on a starry night I wonder and am caught up in mystery, looking out at the vastness of it all.
Ever since human persons started to wonder and reflect about meaning in the journey of life they have discovered a life ‘beyond’. People could have lived superficially yet they knew, with Socrates, that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. Questions arose that caught up individuals and societies in mystery; questions about the events of life and death, love and hate, sickness and health, hunger and nourishment.
These are ultimate questions that no one can really ever escape. They usually catch us somewhere, sometime in the circumstances of life. We resonate with ‘I want to be there when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been for’ (from Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov).
Ancient peoples sought to understand ‘what it has all been for’ by relating to the mysterious side of life. They gave names to the divine realm and its inhabitants. Anthropology is full of their discoveries.
People from many cultural traditions thought that this other realm could be known through a life of spirit which makes it possible for the human realm and the "divine" realm to intersect, to be reconciled, to reveal meaning.
From Australian Aboriginal ‘dreaming’, the mythologies of Mesopotamia, and all the great religions of the world have done this. Even modern mythologies like the Star Wars series suggest such an intersection of life, e.g.; with the statement ‘The Force be with you!’
For Christians this questioning and the intersecting of human life with the ‘mystery of life is known and celebrated in the person and life of Jesus. ‘ What it has all been for’ is found in Jesus. And Jesus can be found in the Christian community and in celebrations. Jesus can be found in the life of the Spirit who enables us to appreciate the revelation that sacramental life offers us.
In a world that has put science on a pedestal and which has so much trust in rational thought alone, sacramental practices can be accused of being naive, even childish, a ‘Linus blanket’, or magic. Yet the deepest realities can only be, and are, expressed in symbol and sacrament.
We pour water over a child and proclaim that the child lives forever. We lay hands on and anoint a sick person with oil and say that the Spirit of our Healing God is with them. We eat a morsel of bread and drink a sip of wine and we say we are united with God and one another.
These are, indeed, very ordinary, simple things to do. Yet their meaning and reality is far from simple. To a person, moved by the Spirit and with the eyes of faith, the sacramental ritual can make present a God who enhances and enriches life and its quest for meaning. There is a moment of grace, of appreciating the living and loving presence of God.
For this to happen an openness to revelation and the Spirit of God active in life is required. One could say that such an openness is a prerequisite to understanding the thoughts of this book. The Spirit leads us to such an openness as, in faith, we enter into the realm of word, symbols of Jesus, the Word and Holy Wisdom within us.
Edwards, Denis "The Human Experience of God."
Paulist Press, New York 1983.
An exploration of the connection between the human experience of mystery and the God of the Christian Gospel.
Copyright © Anthony Kain 2009