Sunday, 4 March 2012
"We only need to think for a moment how much the Christian understanding of life depends upon the existence of Grace; let us recall that the Holy Spirit Himself is called a 'gift' in a special sense; that the great teachers of Christianity say that the premise of God's justice is God's love, that everything gained and everything claimed follows upon something given and comes after something gratuitous and unearned...that in the beginning there is always a gift.... In the midst of creation is a sacrifice of God in Jesus Christ which makes everyday a feast day, celebrated as sacrament, in all the visible signs of what has been bestowed. in such leisure, men are lifted above the frontiers of the mundane into the ecstasy of what has been given - the Logos - that we might be rapt into the love of what is above and beyond us amidst what is seen".
Josef Pieper - Leisure- the Basis of Culture.
I made an interesting discovery during a lunch-break at work this week.
Due to some unseasonal good weather, I went out for a walk along Plymouth Hoe with my camera, and found myself at the Mayflower memorial arch - a place I'd been before, but I'd never ventured onto the viewing platform which looks out to the sea. Inscribed into a semi-circle of green slate plates upon the railings is a statement which encapsulates the intent and accomplishment of those who sailed from this site to the new world:
'As one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone to many and, in some sort, to our whole nation'.
I found myself wondering about that... how often do any of us do something which makes that kind of an impression upon others? Most of us are not Bach's or Galileo's (and many such folks were miss-understood or maligned in their own days), and what we do seems pretty small, but what is true is that we so often benefit from such moments, which can enrich our own lives beyond ways we often comprehend... Perhaps the best we can do is take a moment when such thoughts play upon us to recognise and appreciate the value of such gifts.
There is, of course, an even bigger 'canvas' which we all play upon, and that is the splendour of life itself. Josef Pieper seeks to remind us that that activity itself is only possible because of the love, care and giving of another - it is by their giving that all of our activity is possible, because it is born purely out of love, shared with us.
In his book, the Parables of the Kingdom, Robert Farrar Capon begins his study on the teachings of Jesus in these gems by seeking to describe the essence of what scripture itself is trying to say to us - what statement is writ large beneath its archway of departure?
"It is about the mystery by which the power of God works to form the coming city, the new Jerusalem, prepared as a bride, adorned for her husband". What this means, he notes, is that the Bible is not about some strange place called heaven, nor somebody far away called God, but it's actually about this place, our journey, and the intimate and immediate-ness of the one who is at the heart of it all, who is at work to bring all of life to a place where it is true to His care and His purpose.
When we consider the actions of those who took to sea aboard the Mayflower, not truly knowing what awaited them or if they would even survive the journey, their actions often seem extraordinary, but the benefits have been equally astounding. So it is with the God who has acted in creation, revealing Himself through Jesus Christ. We cannot dismiss the benefits, which sustain us, however we respond to the source.
The call to each of us is to the journey - to the wonder and the mystery. May we be brightened by such a endearing light.