Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Living Word

Communion with Christ in the eucharist is the greatest privilege and sweetest joy of Catholic life. However, we must not allow this heavenly banquet to displace the other feast to which we are called: that of the Word. The Scriptures are, in their own way, heavenly food, and we must relish them with all due fervor. As the prophet Moses declared, “Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
 
Sadly, Catholics are often disinterested in this life-giving bread. To some it is barely palatable: a strange-tasting side dish at best. This apathy is in part the failure of laymen to diligently pursue private study. They do not heed the exhortation of St. Jerome, “I beg of you, my dear brother, to live among these books, to meditate upon them, to know nothing else, to seek nothing else.”

But our shepherds are also to blame, for the gospel of the crucified and risen Lord too often fails to sound from the pulpit. How often do we hear homilies in which the Lord is but a tangential figure? How often do we receive self-help and therapeutic platitudes in place of the promises of grace? How often is a verse or two used as a springboard for a discussion of some topic entirely unrelated to the day’s readings? How often is there superficial—even extemporaneous—commentary rather than learned, tradition-minded exegesis?

Despite the efforts of the Church since Vatican II, the proclamation of the living Word remains unsatisfactory in many parishes: the Scriptures are considered, but they are not “opened up” in the Spirit to reveal the fullness of Christ crucified and risen.

The exposition of the Old Testament is particularly weak. It is not unusual for the Old Testament reading to be simply ignored. Yet we declare in the Creed that Christ died and rose “according to the Scriptures.” This is not, contrary to casual assumption, a reference to the New Testament but to the Old. Similarly, when the apostles and evangelists wrote about the “Scriptures,” they had in mind the Law and Prophets of Israel.

The writings of the ancient Israelites concern Christ no less than the Pauline epistles. It is not without reason that Isaiah is called the “fifth evangelist.” It was to Isaiah, not John or Luke, that St. Ambrose directed St. Augustine upon the latter’s entrance into the catechumenate. Christ is the interpretive key to the Old Testament, and in the Old Testament we see Christ from myriad intriguing angles. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was in all the Scriptures concerning Himself” (Luke 24:44).

This should not be a secret to any Christian, let alone any Catholic. By the illumination of the Spirit, the veil that covers the Old Testament is torn away, revealing the spiritual treasures hidden therein: the treasures of the mystery of Christ, the God-Man. These treasures are the rightful inheritance of the Church. Explained St. Irenaeus, speaking of the Old Testament in the language of a New Testament parable: “Christ is the ‘treasure which was hidden in the field,’ that is … hidden in the Scripture.” But where is the Christological exposition of the Old Testament? Why are we not shown the whole Scriptural Christ?

The psalms in particular are ripe with types and symbols, shadows and prophecies, which point to Christ. Indeed, they portray in striking detail His incarnation, death, and resurrection. Yet most homilies pass over the day’s psalm altogether.

The handling of the New Testament is more capable by far, but even with the gospels and epistles, practical application and general theologizing are the order of the day. The laity deserves the proclamation of the crucified and risen Christ in power; it desires it, if unconsciously.

What does it mean to proclaim the crucified and risen Lord? Perhaps Edward Reynolds, a 17th-century Anglican cleric, said it best:

Preach Christ Jesus the Lord. Let His name and grace, His Spirit and love, triumph in the midst of all your sermons. Let your great end be to glorify Christ in the heart and to render Christ amiable and precious in the eyes of His people, to lead them to Him, as a sanctuary to protect them, as a propitiation to reconcile them, as a treasure to enrich them, as a physician to heal them, as wisdom to counsel them, as righteousness to justify them, as sanctification to renew them, and as redemption to save them. Let Christ be the diamond to shine in the bosom of all your sermons.
Propitiation, physician, wisdom: this is what Christ became for man. Justification, sanctification, redemption: this is what Christ accomplished for man. Therefore, pentecostal and evangelical preaching is nothing less than the presentation of the whole Christ—just as nothing less than the whole Christ is offered in the eucharist.

By the power of the Spirit, the Lord is given to His people in glory and might for conversion and salvation. “So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

Preaching unto conversion: This is the duty of the priests of God. One sympathizes with the objection that our pastors are men already over-burdened, but the problem of poor preaching must be remedied. Gospel-rooted, Christocentric, and Spirit-fueled exposition of the Scriptures is crucial to the salvation of souls. The Apostle writes as much to the Romans, “How shall men be saved, unless they call upon the Lord Jesus? But how shall they call upon a Savior in whom they do not believe? And how can they believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how can they hear unless one is sent to preach” (10:14).

Recall the reaction of the crowd at Pentecost, after they had listened to St. Peter’s proclamation of “Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God … crucified and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death … whom God has made … Lord and Christ”:

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls (Acts 2:37-41).
We must remember that St. Peter preached all this in accordance with the Scriptures: that is, the Law and Prophets.

The proclamation of the crucified and risen Christ is no ordinary pronouncement, and the Holy Scriptures are not simply the words of God, but the Word of God. Our shepherds must recognize the first point, and all Catholics must recognize the second. The Bible, especially in the context of apostolic preaching, is a sort of sacrament in its own right, delivering grace into the hearts of those who receive the Word in faith.

The Lord said, “My words are spirit and life,” (John 6:63). Commenting on this verse, Origen wrote, “We drink the blood of Christ not only when we receive it in the celebration of the mysteries but also when we receive His words in which life dwells, as He Himself tells us: ‘The words I have spoken are spirit and life.’” What a remarkable affirmation of the power of the Scriptural Christ, whom we must encounter in the living Word if we are to call ourselves true and faithful servants of the Lord.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The God Who Emptied Himself Out

"Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior” (Isaiah 45:15).
 
Man is haughty and prideful, and in his conceit he constructs deities to suit his temperament: deities regal and terrible, blazing with fierce glory and swollen with righteous strength. It is not therefore surprising that so many fail to find the Divine, for the True God as revealed in and by Jesus Christ is altogether different. Those looking for a king will not pause to examine the servant standing right before their eyes.
 
God is not regal but humble. He is not terrible but merciful. He is glorious, strong, and righteous, but His glory is manifested in simplicity; His strength in weakness; His righteousness in tender concern. God is most perfectly revealed in the Pierced One: every other Biblical theophany must be seen in light of the cross.

This is the scandal of our faith. “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (I Corinthians 1:22-24).

The “Greeks” are those enlightened men who see the cosmos as a vast mechanism: cold, impersonal, disinterested. If they are religious (a big “if”), then their deity is a sort of First Mover, an abstract principle rather than a dynamic hypostasis. They cannot accept a personal God—if they accept any god at all—who identifies with humanity as Father, Brother, and Helper.

The “Jews,” meanwhile, are those pious souls who entertain man’s natural religious impulses and so view God primarily as powerful and just, a scrutinizing lawgiver and judge. They cannot embrace a God of weakness, a God who suffers and dies. Their deity is too proud for such humiliation. He is a master, not a servant.

To this day, most people are Greeks or Jews. They are blind to the gentle splendor of the Living God, for whom “strength is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9). This reality proves difficult even for Christians. How often we lament spiritual dryness while smugly walking about, self-satisfied and self-righteous, condemning the faults of others while ignoring our own engorged egos. Pride is blinding.

The Lord tells us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). In this world, the kingdom of heaven is not a place; it is peaceful and loving communion with the Trinity. We possess the kingdom of heaven—that pearl of great price—as part of our inheritance as sons of God. Yet we are only sons of God if we allow the Spirit to transform our souls after the image of the Son of God. Saint John writes, “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (I John 2:6).

How walked the Lord? We have His own words, “I am meek and humble of heart,” (Matthew 11:29). Saint Francis sang, “You are love; You are wisdom; You are humility.”

The God-Man’s divine humility is summed up by Saint Paul thusly:  “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

Let this mind be in you. The Christian faith is concerned with one thing: the transfiguration of sons of men into sons of God. This demands self-emptying, self-sacrificial love: love working through and manifested in forgiveness, meekness, mildness.

This call to sanctification or “theosis” is daunting. Yet we need not fear, for the Paraclete dwells inside our hearts. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18).

Isaac of Syria, the seventh century ascetic and bishop of Nineveh, wrote: “No one has understanding if he is not humble, and he who lacks humility lacks understanding.” If a man desires to know God—not as abstraction but as reality, not as idea but as Person—he must enter through the door of self-emptying love. This door was opened by Jesus atop the hill called Calvary—and Jesus stands open-armed on the other side.

Walk through that divine door, fellow Christian, and meet your gentle Savior!

“Humility is the raiment of the Godhead. The Word who became human clothed Himself in it, and He spoke to us in our body. Everyone who has been clothed with humility has truly been made like unto Him.” –Isaac of Syria

Of Art and Trousered Apes

Life without God is madness.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the absurd world of modern “art.”  In 1985, Jeff Koons assembled a work that consisted of three basketballs submerged in a fish tank. It symbolized, he proclaimed during one interview, “pre-birth”, “equilibrium,” “the eternal,” and “life after death,” among other things. It eventually sold for $150,000.

 
 
This pseudo-intellectual insanity, at once amusing and depressing, is the inevitable refuse of a society that has rejected the Word. Life is meaningless without the Logos, for the Logos is the creative and dynamic Being who orders all things.

Various beasts are capable of applying color to canvass. We have all seen television specials featuring the work of elephants and apes. These pieces are always the same: random, abstract, chaotic. They are cute, but not profound.

True art is the imitation of the Logos. Art is accomplished when man summons the reasonable creativity instilled in his soul by God. It is unique to man because the imago Dei is unique to man.

Thus the work of Koons and his ilk cannot rightly be called art. It is anti-art. Indeed, it is anti-Christ, for it implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) denies the supremacy of the Logos, and the likeness of the Logos that subsists within the human heart.

Saint Paul wrote, “Walk not as Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:17-18). This divine insight helps us understand the irrationality of anti-art. Separation from God is madness: darkness of mind and heart.

Art, rightly understood, is not a secular pursuit. It is rather a spiritual activity of the highest order. When man creates art, he participates in the Logos, the dynamic Intelligence who yields order and beauty.

We see all around us the decay of artistry. This degeneration should come as no surprise, given the dismal spiritual state of our civilization. What beauty and profundity should we expect from men who believe themselves to be trousered apes?

It is high time for Christians, those disciples of the Word, those children of the Logos, to bear sweet cultural fruit.

Lenten Meditation: He Hath Made Him to be Sin for Us


Over the centuries, Christian artists have produced innumerable portrayals of the Lord’s crucifixion, but none so terrible as Matthias Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece, a work at once transfixing and repulsive.

The middle panel of the Isenheim triptych features Christ, pallid and emaciated and thorn-pierced, pinned to the tree. It is truly a garish scene, torn from some medieval nightmare: His limbs are gaunt and stretched; His veins taut, fat and dark like wet cord; His lips cracked and flecked with spittle; His nose swollen from fist and lash. There is no polish or sentiment, which is unusual for liturgical art.

Most intriguing are the Lord’s hands and feet, which Grunewald depicts as deformed, contorted. The feet in particular are elongated and misshapen: indeed, they are rather claw-like. Why does Grunewald depict the Lamb in such a frightening way? Why is there a hint of the demonic about the dying God-Man?

The mind flies immediately to the words of Saint Paul: “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21). On the cross, Jesus took upon His scourged and pummeled shoulders the sins of the world. He assumed all the evil and wickedness of mankind unto Himself, as the scapegoat assumed the wrongdoings of Israel. Yea, the Word gathered up the sins of humanity and destroyed them in the purifying fire of His divinity!

Is Christ’s beastly appearance an expression of this dimension of the atonement? In Grunewald’s imagination, the Lord’s unsightly and contorted body might just declare the Calvary event, by which mankind was ransomed from the darkness of the Devil and spared the just wrath of God.

He Stretched Forth His Hand

The beginning of Mark’s gospel contains a revealing and prophetic encounter between Jesus and a leper. We are told: “And there came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down said to Him: If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. And Jesus having compassion on him, stretched forth His hand; and touching him, saith to him: I will. Be thou made clean” (1:41-42).

In His great love for the poor and humble, Christ stretched forth His hand, and so healed the man of his wretched malady. Here is the Good News in miniature: Jesus of Nazareth as the Anointed One who stretches forth His hand to save, cleanse, and heal.

It is no coincidence that the God-Man died upon a cross, arms widespread like the wings of an eagle. “He will overshadow thee with His shoulders: and under His wings thou shalt trust” (Psalm 91:4). From the cross, Christ’s stretched-forth hands overshadowed our sins. Even now, we huddle beneath His bloody pinions, trusting they will shield us from the Evil One, who prowls about for the souls of men.

Christ did not merely gesture at the leper, “waving away” his misery. The Lord rather touched him, felt his wretched body. Certainly this touch was the sweetest caress. Similarly, atop His cruciform perch, Christ embraced the wickedness of the world. Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice was not a charade: from His throne on Calvary, the God-Man truly encountered mankind’s sin. “Him, who knew no sin, He hath made sin for us, that we might be made the justice of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21).

As we enter into Lent, it is worth pondering Christ’s stretched-forth hands, as they appear during His ministry and His passion. It seems His hands were always that way: stretched-forth. No doubt this oft-repeated gesture was symbolic of His radical self-giving.

The great scandal of Christianity is the loving condescension of an eternal and infinite God who became flesh and bone; and not just flesh and bone, but a servant among servants, meek and lowly in the extreme.

For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

Let this mind be in you. Lent is the season of discipline. It is an opportunity to take a half-step back from the daily bustle and strive after the mind of Christ. What is the mind of Christ but the mind of the servant? For “the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the strong” (I Corinthians 1:27).

We should never forget that we worship the Scourged God, the Pierced God, the Crucified God. Whenever we forget this precious and awesome reality, we forsake the mind of Christ and cannot properly call ourselves Christians. Jesus revealed that God is Love, and Love always seeks the good of the other, as Saint Paul illustrates in I Corinthians 13.

We see then that stretched-forth hands are apt symbols of Christian life, which is rooted in self-giving and self-sacrifice:

“But Jesus calling them, saith to them: You know that they who seem to rule over the Gentiles, lord it over them: and their princes have power over them. But it is not so among you: but whosoever will be greater, shall be your minister.  And whosoever will be first among you, shall be the servant of all. For the Son of Man also is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a redemption for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

The Lord stretched forth His hand to heal and cleanse; He stretched forth His hand to embrace the sins of the world, and so cast them away. Though we lack His authority, we can imitate His actions, and so become one with Him: “Jesus answered, and said to him: If any one love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him” (John 14:23).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Created for Immortality

“God did not make death,
Neither does He have pleasure over
the destruction of the living.
For He created all things that they
might exist,
And the generations of the world so
they might be preserved
For there was no poison of death in them,
Nor was the reign of Hades on the earth.
For God created man for immortality
And made him an image of His
own eternity,
But death entered the world by the
envy of the devil,
And those of his portion tempt it”
(Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24).

This is a most edifying oracle, offering truth about the nature and destiny of mankind. How wonderful that we are meant for “immortality,” for eternal life! But what characterizes this mysterious state of existence, which philosophers and sages have so long pondered? The Logos Himself reveals: “And this is life eternal, that they might know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

We notice right away that eternal life is qualitative rather than quantitative. It is a relationship. To have eternal life is to have knowledge of God, and knowledge in the Biblical worldview is not mere mental comprehension, but rather intimate communion. Thus eternal life is highly personal: loving fellowship with the infinite and thrice-holy Godhead.

Death, then, is rupture in the relationship between God and man. Man’s existence is sustained by spiritual proximity to the Deity, the Fountain of Being. The creature’s existence diminishes the further he moves from the nourishing presence of the Creator, the Living One, who alone can say, “I AM.”

Scripture makes clear that we were not, and are not, intended to live apart from God. Our first parents—though creatures of flesh summoned from dust—enjoyed eternal life by virtue of their fellowship with God. When they succumbed to temptation, they forfeited this gift, this heavenly blessing, this unique estate that had been theirs to treasure. Though the Divine Image still flickered in their hearts, they were evermore consumed by sin and death, by corruption and base carnality, and they descended to the level of irrational beasts. Instead of peaceable life on earth followed by perfect bliss in heaven, man’s existence became a bitter struggle that led only to the terrible abyss of death.

As St. Athanasius explains with powerful clarity:

“Upon men who, as animals, were essentially impermanent, He bestowed a grace which other creatures lacked—namely the impress of His own Image, a share in the reasonable being of the very Word Himself, so that, reflecting Him and themselves becoming reasonable and expressing the Mind of God even as He does, though in limited degree they might continue forever in the blessed and only true life of the saints in paradise … He set them in His own paradise, and laid upon them a single prohibition. If they guarded the grace and retained the loveliness of their original innocence, then the life of paradise should be theirs, without sorrow, pain or care, and after it the assurance of immortality in heaven …

But men, having turned from the contemplation of God to evil of their own devising, had come inevitably under the law of death. Instead of remaining in the state in which God had created them, they were in process of becoming corrupted entirely, and death had them completely under its dominion. For the transgression of the commandment was making them turn back again according to their nature; and as they had at the beginning come into being out of non-existence, so were they now on the way to returning, through corruption, to non-existence again. The presence and love of the Word had called them into being; inevitably, therefore when they lost the knowledge of God, they lost existence with it” (On the Incarnation, 1:3, 4).

If immortality comes through fellowship with the Divine, death comes through collaboration with the Diabolical. That word, “diabolical,” comes from the Greek dia ballein, literally “to throw apart.” Estrangement from God and one another is death, and death is estrangement from God and one another. Bishop Sheen used to remark that fallen man is estranged even from himself, as symbolized by the Gadarene demoniac, who speaks in both the singular and plural (cf. Mark 5:1-20).

So estrangement equals death. On the other hand, communion yields life. Whereas estrangement comes from pride and hate, communion comes from humility and love. Thus we read in Scripture:

“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:25-27).

John Zizioulas, an Orthodox metropolitan, wrote a book called Being as Communion. The title alone could be pondered for a lifetime. It gets to the heart of reality, both human and Divine. Zizioulas writes, “The life of God is eternal because it is personal, that is to say, it is realized as an expression of free communion, as love. Life and love are identified in the person: the person does not die only because it is loved and loves; outside the communion of love the person loses its uniqueness, and becomes a being like other beings, a “thing” without absolute “identity” and “name,” without a face” (pg. 49).

Existence is the measure of one’s fellowship-in-charity with God and, through God, with one’s neighbor. As Christians, we are united in the Body of Christ, and Christ is united with the Godhead. “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (I Corinthians 11:3).

Personhood, born only of communion, is perfected only in communion. In the end, the entire cosmos, recreated in glory, will be united in the infinite splendor of the Living God, so that “God may be all in all” (I Corinthians 15:28).  “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). Then every creature which God has saved, linked to all the others in the Spirit of Peace, will truly flourish.

As the Word created us in the first place, it is right that He should heal the spiritual disease that we have acquired through wickedness and ignorance. The “presence and love” of the Logos called us into being, and even now He brings abundant life, that we might be raised into glory and become “partakers of the Divine Nature” (II Peter 1:4).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Beginning of Wisdom


An old adage tells us that theology is the queen of the sciences, philosophy her handmaid. This means not simply that heavenly wisdom is nobler or more edifying than earthly knowledge. It speaks also of the epistemological importance of the theistic conviction: objective reality depends upon the existence of the Supreme Subject.

Philosophy, in the broadest sense of that word, be it hard (physics) or soft (ethics), is reliable only if we live in an intelligible universe. Intelligibility, of course, derives from a Being capable of thought.
The scientists of early modernity were sure that they could analyze and describe the natural world because of their faith in a meticulous Creator and faithful Sustainer “upholding all things by the Word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). They took for granted the validity of logic because they knew the Logos, the Wisdom of God. As Solomon declared, “The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).

Thus the wicked irony of today’s God-loathing prophets of scientism: By denying the Deity, they destroy the very foundation of knowledge, which is His enduring and unchanging Reason. “He tells the number of the stars; He calls them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:4-5).

What is philosophy but “thinking God’s thoughts after Him,” as Johannes Kepler is said to have exclaimed? Consider it: If there is no God, there is no objectivity. If there is no objectivity, just subjectivity, then true science becomes an impossibility. There is only descent into the anarchy of Humean skepticism.

Scripture affirms from the very start God’s role as wise Creator. It portrays Him as an Artisan of titanic strength and vitality. “For, lo, He that forms the mountains, and creates the wind, and declares unto man what is His thought, that makes the morning darkness, and treads upon the high places of the earth: the LORD, the God of hosts, is His name” (Amos 3:4).  He is the wondrous Designer, the loving Craftsman made known by His labor: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

With the clear testimony of Scripture and the added confirmation of natural revelation, we may be certain that we truly dwell in the “cosmos”: a well-ordered system that works in predictable fashion thanks to Divine fidelity. “In the beginning, the Lord did His work of creation, and gave everything a place of its own. He arranged everything in an eternal order” (Sirach 16:26-27).

Ronald Knox once wrote:
There was a young man who said
“God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there’s no one about in the
Quad.”

“Dear Sir, your astonishment’s odd;
I am always about in the Quad
And that’s why this tree
Will continue to be
Since observed by . . . Yours faith-
Fully, God.”

This poem illustrates my original point regarding the intimate relationship between subjectivity and objectivity. It also reveals one of the beautiful truths of Christianity: We ultimately believe reality to be Personal (or, more properly, Tri-Personal).

Sirach tell us: “The sun giving light has looked upon all things, and full of the glory of the Lord is His work” (42:16). The natural order is a symbol of God’s inner nature: Its glory points to His glory and its reason points to His Reason. Not only is nature symbolic, it pulses with the very life of the Deity. It is infused with His nourishing power, which summons existence from dead and empty void, so that we can and must declare, “He is all” (Sirach 43:29).