Monday, February 16, 2015

Recovering wonder and enchantment in our walk with God.

One of the most insidious things that can happen to any soul in search of truth and goodness and beauty is that of being jaded, bored and generally uninterested in life.  Some will refer to it as ennui that envelopes one’s world.  We only need to look at little children in their infancy and early childhood, and see their minds and bodies growing like sponges soaked in water, simply because there is an ability to be awed and marveled by the world, not just in its largess, but also in the tiny but often missed things that we adults take so much for granted.  An ant crawling up a wall can mesmerize a child, and the expression on his face that speaks of wonderment and amazement is priceless. 

If this is something that is so easily seen, experienced and displayed in our early years as we are physically grow into adulthood, could there be a similar pattern and necessary mirroring in our spiritual development as well, as children of God that we all are?

Speak to anyone who has gone through an enriching RCIA journey where God is introduced into the life of a person, and it is often revealed that one’s spiritual vocabulary had been slowly expanded and enriched, and it will be evident that the person had been given something akin to new eyes to view the world and marvel all that it holds.  Conversely, when RCIA is not imparted as a journey but a ‘course’ that is highly focused on cerebral content only, this necessary pathway towards spiritual maturity is overlooked and sadly even sometimes disdained. 

When Moses encountered the burning bush in the episode related in the book of Exodus, he was told to remove his shoes/sandals, as the ground that he is on is holy ground.  One would think that this holiness referred only to the physical ground that was surrounding the bush that was aflame but unburnt.  But isn’t all ground holy?  We may have desecrated and made unholy the many grounds that we have been given in life, but that doesn’t change the fact that God had been the original giver of this ground, as he is the ground of our very being. 

The real challenge to one who has had their spiritual experience and spiritual vocabulary expanded is to continue to be open the wonders that surround and fill one’s world daily.  It may sound either simplistic or just na├»ve to read that in my journey with God, I have often been challenged to see that there is marvel and miracle in the everyday happenings and occurrences in ordinary reality.  Our modern day minds have been so attuned to being bedazzled and beguiled by what is amazing, surprising and ‘awesome’, that we have dumbed down our ability to be enchanted by the simple and ordinary.  We cannot ponder, and we have lost our ability to wonder.  When this happens, something more insidious also happens – we become irreverent and our souls become tired.

How then does one recover one’s lost sense of wonder?  How does one rescind from the greyness of a spiritual ennui?  One thing that is so clear about the spiritual masters is that mystics and contemplatives hardly lose their ability to wonder, and have an innate sense that gives them hearts that see boredom not as boredom but as us giving room for God to enter in.  They are also hardly cynical and negative, but are always willing to look at the silver lining at the edge of each cloud, and harbour no resentment or ill-will towards the situations in life that challenge or disturb their peace.  The peace that the Church prays for at the Eucharistic celebration after the Lord’s Prayer is precisely for this – a peace that is Christ’s peace.  This peace is one which isn’t just found in stillness and calm, but strangely, one that is found in the lion’s den (ref. the prophet Daniel), the belly of the fish (ref. the prophet Jonah), and most significantly, one which is found in the Cross. 

In his book The Everlasting Man,  G.K. Chesterton put it so well when he wrote of the need to recover the candour and wonder of the child and attain the objectivity of innocence, resulting in seeing contempt as a mistake.  As for the imagination, he astutely said "we must invoke the most wild and soaring sort of imagination; the imagination to see what is there". 

A daily ritual that trains us for this kind of holy longing is when we make a daily holy hour with the Lord in Eucharistic adoration.  Yes, whilst there, we do look at the Lord, but we hardly think about what happens from the viewpoint of the Eucharist.  We too, must allow the Lord to look at us – and in that act of faith, also believe that he is loving us despite ourselves.  Married couples and couples in love know that when they are looked at with deep love, the world around them changes.  When we are looked at with deep love by God himself, and are aware of this affectively, our world too, becomes seen in a new light, and we can begin to recover our lost sense of wonder and enchantment as we walk with God in life.

1 comment:

  1. “An ant crawling up a wall can mesmerize a child, and the expression on his face that speaks of wonderment and amazement is priceless.........” - reminds me of the delightful works of G Durrell, the naturalist, where he held the readers’ spell-bound with his amusing anecdotes – be it the antics of the dung beetle or the owl in the belfry! And I feel that Durrell is fascinated and mesmerized by these creatures because like a child, he is totally surrendered to, or absorbed in the present moment.

    I believe that if one could be wholly absorbed in Jesus, one would then be like what you said of the “spiritual masters .......mystics and contemplatives (who) hardly lose their ability to wonder, and have an innate sense that gives them hearts that see boredom not as boredom but as us giving room for God to enter in.”

    Fr John Main, the Benedictine monk, who re-discovered Christian Meditation, taught that Meditation is the way of rediscovering our sense of wonder because Christian prayer is a state of innocence, where one must come to one’s meditation with childlike simplicity. So during the time of meditation, one must learn to be like little children – to be content with saying the prayer-word and letting go of all thought, of all imagination and of all analysis. Doing so is a “learning to enter into the presence of the Spirit who dwells in our inner heart, who dwells there in love.......and the wonder of it is that we find ourselves loved.”

    It would seem then that the great mystery of the Christian faith is that this love is to be found ‘within’ and not ‘with-out’ – in your own heart.............isn’t that amazingly enchanting ?

    God bless you, Fr