O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from you spirit?
Or where can I flee from you presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there you hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
Ho weighty to me are you thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them?
I try to count them – they are more than the sand;
I come to the end – I am still with you…
A working definition: An experience of the transcendent through the everyday.
A dynamic value that draws us to “an activity we do as persons immersed in the contemplation of something that exceeds us.” (Cavalletti)
Activity and contemplation are inseparably blended with wonder.
“Awe is an intuition for the dignity of all things, a realization that things not only are what they are but also stand, however remotely, for something supreme. Awe is a sense for the transcendence, for the reference everywhere to mystery beyond all things. It enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine,… to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of passing the stillness of the eternal. What we cannot comprehend by analysis, we become aware of in awe.” (Abraham Heschel)
Wonder is the essential starting point of the spiritual life. “When wonder becomes a fundamental attitude of our spirit it will confer a religious character to our whole life, because it makes us live with the consciousness of being plunged into an unfathomable and incommensurable reality.” (Cavalletti)
“God’s beauty is his love, all the greater because it was prior. The more [the soul] understands that she was loved before being a lover, the more and amply she cries out in her heart’s core and with the voice of her deepest affections that she must love him. Thus, the Word’s speaking is the giving of the gift; the soul’s response is wonder and thanksgiving. The more she grasps that she is overcome in loving, the more she loves. The more she admits that he has gone before her, the more awestruck she is.” (in Sermons on the Song of Songs, by Bernard of Clairvaux)
“The horizon of knowledge is lost in the mist produced by fads and phrases. We refuse to take notice of what is beyond our sight, content with converting realities into opinions, mysteries into dogmas and ideas into a multitude of words. What is extraordinary appears to us as habit, the dawn a daily routine of nature…In the confinement of our study rooms our knowledge seems to us a pillar of light. But when we stand at the door which opens out to the infinite, we realize that all concepts are but glittering motes that populate a sunbeam.” (Abraham Heschel)
HOW DO WE LEARN TO WONDER?
Pay attention. Look again. And again.
- Wonder “can only arise from an attentive observation of reality.” (Cavalletti)
- “If we skim over things, we will never be surprised by them.” (Cavalletti)
- “Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer.” (S. Weil)
- How often do we project ourselves, our desires, our interpretations, our opinions, on the world? How often do we let the world, in all its particularity and mystery, simply speak to us?
Faith Is a Blush
by Abraham Heschel
is unwilling to be alone,
and man cannot forever remain impervious
to what He longs to show.
Those of us who cannot keep their striving back
find themselves at times
within the sight of the unseen
and become aglow with its rays.
Some of us blush,
others wear a mask.
Faith is a blush
in the presence of God.
WHAT AIDS DO WE HAVE?
1) The Holy Bible:
- Parables – help us to reach the kingdom/ Christ/ moral reality through simple images – A seed/ a shepherd/ a coin
- Messianic Prophecies – simple images that contain great wealth – light and darkness, names, a young woman, a town.
- Infancy Narratives – contrast between “King of Kings” and a baby in a manger, appearance of star, foretold by the prophets, role of dreams, Mary’s yes, role of Angels, miraculous conceptions, John’s recognition in the womb, Simeon’s recognition, etc.
- Mingling of Water and Wine
- Epiclesis and Offering
3) A Gift of the Holy Spirit – “Fear of the Lord” – wonder or reverence and awe
4) The Example of Children
- Children live at the deepest level of reality
- Childhood develops under the sign of wonder (RPOC page 138)
5) Our Love for Children – “Unless you accept the Kingdom of God as a child, you shall not have life within you…”
- Each child is a most precious pearl, a living, breathing parable of the Kingdom
- Each child bears the Holy Spirit, is an icon of the Holy Spirit
HOW DO WE EDUCATE TO WONDER?
- Cultivating an attitude of wonder in ourselves.
- Proclaiming the unadulterated Word, slowly with reverence.
- Drawing attention to liturgical signs and gestures
- Proclaiming the contrast between little and great (particularly in the Kingdom Parables, which “manifest the two extreme moments of a process, without pausing over the development, thereby stressing the contrast between the small and the great…” Sofia Cavalletti)
- Acknowledging the existence of mystery, God’s “secrets”
- Meditating on the tremendous strength, both physical and interior, of the creative process to transform.
- Providing insight into the root of the religious attitude: “I am in myself. I am not from myself…” Sofia Cavalletti
- Manifesting (through our choice of materials) the truth that poverty contains great richness
- Guiding (through indirect means) “the child to find the imprint of God’s presence in us, in particular persons, and in specific events.” Sofia Cavalletti
- Paying attention to detail
- Slowing down
- Inviting contemplation through open-ended questions
- Creating and maintaining silence
- Creating the time and space for repetition and private conversation with and enjoyment of God.
DIVERSE THOUGHTS CONCERNING WONDER:
“Truth fills all things; it encircles all things. Therefore, our minds can never be expanded to comprehend the unbounded encircling, because it is hemmed in by the imperfection of its own bounded existence.” (in Moralia, by St. Gregory the Great)
God “creates our minds to participate in him” (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)
“I entered into my inmost parts with You leading me on. I was able to do this because You had become my helper. I entered and saw with my soul’s eye (such as it was) an unchanging light above that same soul’s eye, above my mind…He who knows truth knows that light. Love knows it. O Eternal Truth and True Love and Beloved Eternity.” (in Confessions, by St. Augustine of Hippo)
“We, indeed, still like little children, are being formed into the divine likeness within us by symbols and holy images, so that we may now be deified by this likeness through faith…” (from Commentary on Celestial Hierarchy, by John the Scot)
“To the pious, God is as real as life, and as nobody would be satisfied with mere knowing or reading about life, so he is not content to suppose or to prove logically that there is a God; he wants to feel and to give himself to Him; not only to obey but to approach Him. His desire is to taste the whole wheat of spirit before it is ground by the millstone of reason. He would rather be overwhelmed by the symbols of the inconceivable than wield the definitions of the superficial.” (Abraham Heschel)
“God is the reason for loving God; the measure of loving him is to love without measure.” (in On Loving God, by Bernard of Clairvaux)
"[Moses] shone with glory. And although lifted up through such lofty experiences, he is still unsatisfied in his desire for more. He still thirsts for that with which he is filled to capacity, and he asks to attain as if he had never partaken, beseeching God to appear to him, not according to his capacity to partake, but according to God’s true being. Such an experience seems to me to belong to the soul that loves what is beautiful.” (in Life of Moses, by St. Gregory of Nyssa)
“Solomon elevates above everything grasped by sense the loving movement of our soul towards invisible beauty. Having thus cleansed the heart in external things, Solomon initiates the soul into the divine sanctuary by means of the Song of Songs. What is described there is a marriage; but what is understood is the mingling of the human soul with God (in Homily 1, by St. Gregory of Nyssa)
“It must be said that the very cause of the universe in the beautiful, good superabundance of God’s benign yearning for all is carried out of himself in the loving care he has for everything. He is, as it were, beguiled by goodness, by love and by yearning and is enticed away from his dwelling place and comes to abide with all things, and he does so by virtue of his supernatural and ecstatic capacity to remain, nevertheless, within himself.” ( in Divine Names, by Dionysius the Areopagite)
“Ascending the tabernacle, the soul comes to the house of God. While it admires the members of the tabernacle it is thus led to the house of God by following a certain sweetness, an indescribable interior hidden pleasure. It is as if a musical instrument sweetly sounded from the house of God, and while walking in the tabernacle he heard the interior sound and, led by its sweetness, he followed what had sounded, separating himself from every clamor of flesh and blood until he arrived at the house of God.” (from Homily on Psalm 41, by St. Augustine of Hippo)
“What is more wonderful and beautiful to those considering themselves and their God is that the human mind is to be more praised in its ignorance than it its knowledge. For it is more praiseworthy in it not to know what it is than to know that it is…” (in Periphyseon, by John the Scot)
“This is the reason why the entire fabric of this world is the greatest light put together from many parts as from lamps for revealing and beholding the pure reasons of intelligible things by the mind’s highest power through the cooperation of divine grace and reason’s aid in the heart of the wise and faithful.” (from Commentary on Celestial Hierarchy, by John the Scot)
“Reveal Yourself to those who seek for nothing but You. Shatter the clouds of empty images that prevent the mind’s insight from gazing upon You in the way in which You allow Yourself, though invisible, to be seen by those who desire to behold your face, which is their resting place, their final goal, beyond which they desire nothing, because there is nothing beyond the superessential and supreme Good.” (John the Scot)
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