JULIAN MEETING – 3rd June 2019
If it is true that we must find God within the only world we have, then this link I know in myself between ‘matter’ and ‘spirit’, the holy and the common, must be true of all that is created. Certainly those who wrote the books of the Old Testament believed this to be so: they speak of God blessing everything he creates, making all creation the sign of his presence. If spirituality means the way we grow into the kind of being we are intended to be, then the starting point is not a striving after another world, but a deepening awareness of the true nature of this world and our place within it. For by and large our sense of the perception of things has withered away: what remains is mere recognition.
William Law, perhaps the greatest of the English post-Reformation mystics, writes:
“All that is sweet, delightful and amiable in this world, in the serenity of the air, the fineness of seasons, the joy of light, the melody of sounds, the beauty of colours, the fragrancy of smells …. is nothing else but heaven breaking through the veil of this world, manifesting itself in such a degree and darting forth in such variety so much of its own nature.”
Ours is a world that is unimaginably more than the ordered mass of atoms and molecules obeying the rules of their separate fields. For it is a world in which matter is capable of being the bearer of spirit – which is what people mean when they talk of a ‘sacramental’ universe. To talk of a sacramental world is not to appeal to magic, but to describe another aspect of the mystery. For material objects, the world of bodies and things, the only world we know, are the raw material for what gives life meaning. Spirit can only speak through matter. When I was born my physical body became the vehicle of the spiritual being I know myself to be, and what is true of a person is true of the world about us.
Quite ordinary material things have the potential to convey truths which carry for us the most value and the deepest significance. The small band of gold I placed on my wife’s finger over 50 years ago is a comparatively trivial thing in itself, yet its meaning for us is powerful. Many people don’t fully grasp the language of symbols and sacraments, yet they live as if they did. When people kiss or even shake hands, when they write a letter or give each other presents, when they create a work of art, they are giving value to material things by using them to express what are essentially spiritual, non-physical truths, bearers of ourselves, our presences.
All I have tried to say so far about mystery and transcendence stems from my deep belief that the whole world is sacramental and the whole creation marked with the signature of its Creator, and that the only way to find the holy is in the ordinary; that the ordinary is far more extraordinary than we think. At the heart of all great art and all creative science lies this assumption, and there is nothing material that does not have both significance and value. Each of us is made in the likeness of the Creator living in a certain kind of world: a visible sacrament of the invisible, a place where God is to be known and loved in and through all he has made, and where those things are to be known and loved in him.
Next Julian Meeting is at 7.30pm at The Rectory on the 1st July 2019 Brian Fletcher