Catholic for Life - No. 29 Out of the Ordinary
No. 29 Out of the Ordinary
We live in the world of time, space, energy and matter, and amid life in its diversity. When we begin to take stock of all this, we realise that what we often take for granted and ordinary, is truly extra-ordinary. Marvellous. Awesome. The wonder of nature!
Many try to conquer the ‘ordinary’, tame it, harness and use it in the service of man. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But there, all too many of us remain anchored. Denying or ignoring a far greater reality. These may see in our universe and our world, and in life itself, something to wonder at, and something beautiful. But, many (afflicted by tunnel vision?) seriously suggest that all these are of spontaneous origin, the fluke effect of evolution engineered by “Unintelligent Non-Design”!!! They regard birth and death as the terminals of individual existence, with life sandwiched in between. Nothing before and oblivion afterwards. They call their view reality, knowledge, sophistication, honesty. [Should they also say the view of convenience and/or deep error?]
Realising the human potential
Those who stop at this level of understanding, may be intelligent, noble, brave, generous, and unselfish. But sadly, they miss something essential to our humanity. Rather like people in a lift, stalled between floors. In order to realise our human potential we must necessarily see and reach behind, above and beyond the temporal, material world. The ordinary is a catalyst, meant to lead us into another realm, timeless; that of the spiritual, the intangible and the transcendental. The realm of the Spirit. Our earthly milieu is the divine milieu.
There also are some who believe in the spiritual and the divine, but who tend to dissociate God from the ordinary, from the world of matter. God, they say, is too pure, too perfect, too remote to be identified with matter, or even with men and women, for we are less than the dust. None should be audacious enough to say that God became man; or that he suffered, and died ignominiously on a cross. That God really loves us. Serenades us. To these, such talk is sheer blasphemy.
God ‘s Creation and Presence in the World of Matter
Is it not through that which is of matter, through the ordinary, that God comes to us, making the ordinary sacred. Creation. Incarnation. Redemption. The sacraments. Eucharist. Salvation. The things of earth are not to be despised, but respected and emraced as means of grace: gifts of the God Who is Love. The exemplar of this truth is none other than Jesus, the Christ of God. The Word, the Logos, became one like us, became flesh. Our frailty, our sin, cannot and does not cramp God, or make Him love us any less. It is we who look away, turn away, walk away, like petulant children. And today we boast and call doing this the exercise of our independence, that which is expected by the culture of the day. The culture crafted by the short-sighted, the selfish, the proud.
In the creation account in Genesis we read: ‘God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good.’ (Genesis 1:31). In the Gospel of St. John we see that ‘In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God…. Through him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through him….The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1: 1,3-5,9,14). This truth about the ordinary resounds throughout the Bible, and in the writings of the great saints.
Hymn to Matter
I find the thought of the 20th century scientist (Jesuit priest, poet, explorer, palaeontologist, mystic, and one who Pope Benedict XVI admires), very powerful and penetratingly insightful, as he speaks about matter, as very few do. This makes it hard for some to take in. God is present, immanent, in matter. In his Hymn of the Universe, Teilhard de Chardin enables us to realise that matter is not ambivalent but purposeful; that “By virtue of the Creation, and, still more, of the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see.” And he affirms that in matter there is the presence, the power and the hand of God: “Blessed be you, harsh matter, barren soil, stubborn rocks. mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution, reality ever newborn; who, by constantly shattering our mental categories, force us to go ever further and further in our pursuit of the truth. Blessed be you, universal matter, immeasurable time, boundless ether… you who by overflowing and dissolving our narrow standards of measurement reveal to us the dimensions of God…. Without you, without your onslaughts, without your uprootings of us, we should remain all our lives inert, stagnant, puerile, ignorant both of ourselves and of God. You who wreck and build… shackle and liberate, the sap of our souls, the hand of God, the flesh of Christ’s.You, I acclaim, not as the pontiffs of science or the moralising preachers depict you, debased, disfigured & a mass of brute forces and base appetites…. I acclaim you as the divine milieu, charged with creative power, as the ocean stirred by the Spirit, as the clay moulded and infused with life by the incarnate Word. Sometimes, thinking they are responding to your irresistible appeal, men will hurl themselves for love of you into the exterior abyss of selfish pleasure-seeking: they are deceived by a reflection or by an echo”
Prayer of Praise
Holy, holy, holy Lord, heaven and earth are full of your glory