Friday, August 10, 2012
Charged with God
My earliest memories of prayer are before a May altar that my mother and sister and I made from an orange crate turned on end. A statue of Mary stood on top. We brought in flowers from the yard to make a crown for Mary, that was often way bigger than the statue's head.
Another early memory is a wooden box topped by a crucifix. There was a window in the box through which we could see each of the Stations of the Cross as we turned a little knob.
In all the rooms of my home now I have crosses and crucifixes and statues and pictures of Mary and other saints. This use of signs and symbols is peculiarly Catholic. Material things remind us of spiritual realities.
I also have many beautiful paintings and prints and photographs on the walls of my home. I find God in their beauty. I find God also in the Lake and the mountains and forests. Finding God in the world and people around me comes second nature to my Catholic self. The Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, said it perfectly:"The world is charged with the grandeur of God."
This characteristic of Catholicism is called "the sacramental principle." It is one of the most distinctive marks of Catholicism. We cherish the spiritual dimension of all reality: the cosmos, nature, history, events, persons, objects, rituals, words. Everything embodies and communicates the Divine.
I found myself thinking of this spiritual value that we find in material things as I reflect on chapter 6 of John's Gospel where Jesus presents himself as The Sign, the fundamental sacrament of God, and where he gives us bread and wine as the precious sacrament of his flesh and blood.