Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Lord: Chapter 81, “Things”

Dear friend,

Nowadays, we love making religions out of the things of our lives: our homes (nesting, feng shui, Martha Stewart Living); the objects we craft to fill them (pots, stainless steel cookware, fine woodwork); the foods we cultivate and cook in them (organic, whole, local); the children we raise on these foods and in these spaces (healthy, balanced, brilliant of course). How strange that we forget Who made these things, Him to whom these things point!

How strange, too, that we celebrate the Home while letting the Family fall apart!

This is a strange topic—things—to encounter near the end of a book about Jesus and the New Testament, smack dab in the center of Romano Guardini’s consideration of the most “spiritual” book in the Bible. Revelation is made of visions, but visions of things; it has “objects scattered throughout,” as RG notes. Lamp-stands, stars, a tree, a crown, a pebble, pillars, a throne, harps, censers, a scroll, a Lamb, horses . . . “What does it mean, this multitude of things in eternity? Revelation describes the dislodging and consuming of time by the eternal—why this mass of earthly objects?”

To answer his question, RG poses another: How does God reach us? Where do we encounter God? Some may be blessed to feel God stirring in their hearts. Isn’t that the whole point of the many meditative movements in the world today—looking for God, or Something Anyway, within? But not all of us are so blessed, so alert to inner movements, voices, promptings. So God reaches out to us through Scripture, the word, and particularly through the Word, his incarnate Son.

“God can also address us . . . through all that is and occurs,” Guardini writes. “For all things continuously stream from him; his creativeness does not simply set them down and leave them to run themselves, it sustains them.” God, in other words, is in all the things of our existence. “Everything is a mouthpiece through which the eternal speaks.”

It struck me this morning while meditating on this chapter that this is one of the messages of poetry, in which things are given secondary and tertiary meanings and connections through metaphor and simile. A poet sees a thing and simultaneously sees through it, to the meaning beyond. Why don’t we see the world more poetically? Because we’re not poets. Which is really to say that we’re not often alive to our own religious sense. We’re not alive to the Life in things.

We do adore them though—that “artisan” loaf of bread made with locally grown grains, for example. Why so important? As a thing isolated from its Creator, it seems only a form of self-congratulation. How smart we are and sensitive to make such a thing! Good for us!

But of course we didn’t make it. He did. Along with all the other things in Revelation.

God bless you, my friend—only a few more chapters to go!

This series of posts on Romano Guardini’s book The Lord continues here with chapter 82.

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