May 22, 2006

Gratitude for Created Gifts

Goethe said that Christianity "gave us a reverence for what is below us" which I'd always taken to mean in the sense of the radicalness of the Beatitudes and in the truth of the last shall be first. I had looked at it only from the human angle. But it also applies to creation itself, and those who dismiss it and its pleasures risk displeasing the Giver. Mark Judge writes in God and Man at Georgetown Prep of an adolescent trip to the beach:
...The main sensation of the experience was the discovery of new modes of love. The highest, of course, was the absolute fecundity of God's love for his creatures, as expressed in the miracle of the world itself. The great theologian Jean Danielou has observed that "creation is the first revelation." At the beach the splendor and self-giving force of this creation was evident. Our every day revolved around this splendor. In the morning we would bring our blankets down to the beach to lie in the sun - which, as Chesterton noted, dances in the sky. We would spend hours in the surf, surrending ourselves to the embrace of the waves until we were so stupefied with fatigue that we trudged like old men back to our blankets. At exactly two o'clock - it was never planned, it just seemed to happen that way - we climbed to the second-story balcony of the house to play drinking games for a couple of hours, a preverse Liturgy of the Hours. Then it was a nap, dinner - most likely, fast food - and a shower and a shave to get ready for that night's party. Through it all the laughter never stopped. What is so sad about this is that we considered this new joy an escape from God rather than an entrance into God's self-giving mystery. The deep sensuality occasioned by a place like the beach - the brief, rapturous loss of breath when one is smothered by a wave, the feel of sand under toes; the unquenchable grandeur of the plain of the ocean illuminated by the moonlight - all herald the closeness of the Maker. This was evident to Ignatius Loyola, about whom we had read nothing at Georgetown Prep. Loyola celebrated and encouraged the practice of "seeing God in all things" - even in the nautical world.

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