September 3, 2011

All Things Visible and Invisible

Jeffrey Allan over at Secret Harbor has posted a wonderful text by St. Gregory the Great which sheds light on the realism of Christian prayer.  In other worldviews, there is a tendency to collapse good and evil as simple moments of a greater dialectic.  There is also a tendency to see the world of visible things as merely in the process of being absorbed by some greater reality or else even simply an illusion from which we need to free ourselves.  There is something attractive about rising above all the conflicts which come with living a good life and allowing them to resolve themselves as we occupy our minds with the some sort of absolute.  But St. Gregory rightly observes that because of sin our contemplation of the absolute is distorted -- and without grace it is the case that our own big fat ego easily becomes the only absolute we see.  For the Christian, adopting a worldview in which only the absolute is thought to be real would amount to a rejection of the gift of creation which God carefully brought forth into existence and ordered as a gift of love to each of us, a gift that includes our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, spouses and children, neighbors and even strangers, a gift that when gratefully received and cared for calls us beyond ourselves and beyond our limited experiences into his wondrous Light.

We could say that the Christian worldview accepts that visible things are real and that invisible things are even more real.  In other words, we do not believe that everything we see is an illusion.  Neither do we believe that the world is limited to only that which we can perceive with our senses or measure by our technology.   The visible and the invisible interpenetrate our existence.  Beyond what we can see and hear, enveloping every moment and holding it all together, there is the constant dawning of a spiritual reality.  This reality is deeply personal: penetrating the deepest places of the heart even as it shines out on the remotest horizons of the cosmos.  This personal Light is brighter than every physical light because every other form of light is merely an image of this dynamic and creative reality.   This Light is the very source from which even the light of human reason sprung into being and continues to exist.  In this Light, our frail minds glimpse the victory of all that is good, noble and true in the unfolding battle against evil, banality, and falsehood - a victory already realized in the heavens and a battle still being fought out in the heart.  St. Augustine claims to have seen this Light even before his conversion - so by pure gift it is accessible to all those who seek it with a pure heart.  When this Light shone on him, he explained that he knew at once that it was the Light that made him, a Light that was concerned about his own existence, a Light that invited him to a whole new kind of existence - a light of life, love and eternity.