Monday, 22 October 2007

Revelation in Hiddenness

I was at Mass last night and, after having received the Lord in Communion and in contemplating what I had just received, my mind was taken with something like an insight.

All day and every day I go through life with a deep and constant thirst, to be known, to be loved, to be appreciated (To be known AND loved, note- there are few more terrifying prospects in the world than to be known - fully and genuinely known- and despised). I go up to receive Communion. And I come away with that thirst still unquenched, still unsatisfied. Why?

My intellect knows that here, in Christ, there is love greater than any I could receive from any created being. Here is He who knows me completely (for He made me) and loves me totally and without reservation. And the sign and proof of it, indeed the reality itself, is here in the Blessed Sacrament, in His Body and Blood which I receive into my own body. Here is the end of all my desires, the goal and fulfillment of all my earthly loves, all my noblest impulses. Whatever yearning or longing I have, lying buried deep within me, it finds its object here.

And there are points in life when one gets a glimpse of it. When suddenly the reality of it hits you with such force as to overpower you. But the rest of the time, nothing. One leaves Mass unsatisfied, still longing for the love and appreciation of one's family and peers. Why?

Because these latter are concrete. The love, knowledge and appreciation of people feels more real than that of God because they are concrete. I can see people. I can hear them. I can touch them. They can look me in the eye and I can look them in theirs. And though Christ is human, I cannot do that with Him in the same way. The Blessed Sacrament is concrete but feels much less relational than looking someone in the eye.

Then another thought took me. For this reality is by no means unprecedented. I thought back to the Old Covenant. An idol is concrete. I can look at an idol. I can kneel before it. It gives me something to focus on in my prayers. Indeed, an idol would feel much more real than a nameless invisible Presence in a tent or a temple. How do you worship something invisible?

Yet it is that invisible God who is the real one. The idols might feel more real. They might satisfy the religious impulse in man in a way even Solomon's temple was powerless to do. But in the end they are just wood and stone. They are not gods at all. They are figments, concrete figments. The LORD God is reality, invisible reality but inescapably, genuinely, magnificently real.

Luther used to speak of the hiddenness of God and how, through that very hiddenness, God reveals Himself. For all my disagreements with him, I think he was right about that.

Our earthly loves do exist (unlike the gods of the ancient world) but they are shadows. True love, love that is a burning flame, more earnest and passionate than the greatest earthly love, is both revealed and hidden in the Blessed Sacrament. Though He seems to leave us lacking, no other thing will satisfy the deep longings of our hearts. Our mudpies are insufficient. We do far better to allow Him to lead us to the feast, even if we cannot always discern the food.

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