(An Extract from Daniel’s teaching in Episode 4 of An Astonishing Secret video course.)
These sentences are pretty packed with meaning and they need to be unpacked so I just hope you can listen to them with the ‘ear of your heart’. Remember them when you can during the day, that’s how they become part of our consciousness. Listen, now, with the ear of your heart to this paragraph:
‘God became human so that humans could achieve divinity. God took the form of a human being to reveal the seeds of divinity in all of us – and in all things created.
Seeing God in all things and seeing all things in God’
We are speaking of a theology of nature and grace. Nature and grace- they always go together. It is difficult to read these words and to reflect on them and to remain untouched by their meaning. They are words of love, words of intense intimacy and desire and compassion. There’s a river of love running through all people and the whole world. It is personal. It is universal. It is cosmic. It is what happens when we see everything through the lens of Incarnation. And again, to put it in a theologically safe way to avoid falling into any traps – it is seeing God in all things and seeing all the things in God. Let me repeat, seeing God in all things and seeing all things in God.
Straight away that means we have to remember what we said about depth and another way to talk about understanding the incarnation in terms of depth, is what Richard Rohr, the writer the writer said at one time. Let his words sink into your heart and into your mind.
‘Material reality’, he wrote, ‘ is the hiding place of God. It is the place of revelation. But we must go deep to see that. What makes a thing sacred or profane is precisely whether we live on the surface of things or not. Everything is profane if you live on the surface of it; everything is sacred if you go to the depths of it, even your sin. So, the division for the mystic is not between sacred and secular things, but between superficial things and things at their depth – what Karl Rahner called ‘the mysticism of ordinary life.’ Richard Rohr
We continue, when we are not truly grounded, to miss beauty in our lives and in our work because we do not go deep enough. A story that will help us to understand is one I tend to tell to teachers and priests when they get really fed up with their job and the people they are dealing with. It is about the two men who are building a wall. The fellow at one end of the wall was asked what he was doing.
He said, ‘I hate what I’m doing is it is building this old wall and it is taking so long. In winter my hands are frozen and in summer my hands are overheating. It is monotonous and I just hate Mondays and but I have to do some work to feed the children.’
The man at the other end was asked what he was doing.
He said, ‘I’m building a cathedral. I just can’t wait to watch what’s happening. I’ve seen the plans. I know how it will look and it will be a magnificent building. That little boy playing around here will be getting married here. The older ones will have their funerals here. I’m part of it and I can’t believe it. I’m part of this building. I love Mondays. I love my work.’
The reason I love that story is again it proves something about depth, that when we know the plan if you like, when we know the overall shape and the final conclusion, it makes the humdrum of each day, that we have to look after the family and do our job, it makes it all more bearable because we have in our mind’s eye and in the centre of our hearts the kind of beautiful result of all of this. Staying with this whole notion of work and the value of it or the uselessness of it a wonderful man called Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who died in the last century, a paleantologist, a scientist, a priest, a mystic and a real professional and when he was asked a question about work he said,
‘God is not far away from us up in heaven, distant from the world we see here, touch, taste and smell all around us. No, God is rather at the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my needle. By pressing the stroke, the furrow, the stitch, the handshake whatever or whoever I am engaging with, I am already living in that sacred place, in that heaven that my heart and soul longs for.’
Again, because of his wonderful understanding of Incarnation, one of the most appealing I have come across, he was able to see everything against the background of Incarnation. That was the context, the underpinning of all his work. And he really did work as a scientist.
And then again in ‘Mere Christianity’, another beautiful book by the celebrated writer C.S.Lewis,
God said that we were Gods
and he is going to make good his words,
that is if we allow him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose.
He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us
into a God or a Goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal,
pulsating all through with such energy and joy
and wisdom and love as we cannot imagine,
a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly
though, of course, on a smaller scale,
His own boundless power and delight and goodness.
The process will be long and in parts very painful,
but that is what we are in for, Nothing less.
He meant what He said.
All the quotations used in this particular episode are trying to clarify the Sacramental Vision that Catholic Imagination, that Incarnational Spirituality that we are committed to recovering. Now there is a beautiful prayer by St John Henry Newman that I love saying and so do how to many, many people. As you listen to it, I believe that it is only when we are soaked in the theology of Nature and Grace, that beautiful love story, that we could say this particular prayer with all our hearts. For some reason, if we belong to that theology of sin redemption and we have all this guilt stuff within us, I cannot see us being expansive enough when we get up in the morning to really say this because there is a great exuberance and enthusiasm and a great understanding of self-esteem in it because we see ourselves as in the image of God. St. John Henry Newman:
Dear God help me to spread your beauty everywhere I go today.
Flood my soul with your spirit and light.
Fill my whole being so utterly that all my life
may only be a radiance of you.
Shine through me and be so much a part of me
that every soul I meet may see your presence in mine.
Stay with me and then I will shine as you shine,
so to be a light for others.
Let me preach you without preaching;
teach you without teaching; not by words but by example,
by the catching influence of who I am and what I do;
and by the obvious love my heart holds for you.
(An Astonishing Secret video Course 7 mins – 19 mins)