Thinning

No, this isn’t a post about weight-loss.  I am not talking about weight during the Christmas feast season.

The title comes from the Celtic Christian idea of “thin places.” Places where God seems a little closer at hand. Many of us have experienced this phenomena, either in a church, or perhaps a secluded mountain or lake.

One thing I’ve been experiencing, to different degrees, over recent years is a realization that all of creation is “thin” in this conception. Two books I’ve recently read have further confirmed this idea.

The first is Liturgical Theology by Simon Chan. It was recommended to me repeatedly and I finally succumbed. I am glad I did. In many ways, for those who may be on the Canterbury trail, it is a more important work than Beyond Smells and Bells and Evangelical is Not Enough. Chan’s work gets to the heart of what the liturgy is and why it is important. This is made even more impressive because Chan is not an Anglican.

Because I have learned that all writers have influences, I’m a bit of a footnote junky. Even though, for most modern works, publishers choose to make it more difficult for me by using endnotes instead. I was rewarded for my reference-diving in Liturgical Theology with the discover of For the Life of the World by  Alexander Schmemann.

Schmemann, an Eastern Orthodox priest, put together this short work as a read-ahead for some discussions of world view. In doing so, he created a very engaging work. Of the issues he engages, he looks at the secular vs. sacred matrix that much of the world operates with. He sees its genesis within the church, and points to a debate over the nature of the Eucharist in 1059 as a kind of illustrative watershed point. In the debate, both sides distinguished “real” as opposed to “symbol” instead of seeing the possibility of coexistence of these two ideas.

The implication for all of creation in this is that our sacred/profane distinction is ultimately mistaken.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) Or as we recite before the offering in service each week, “…For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.” (1 Chronicles 29:14)

It raises the question, what can we point to and say, “This is profane?” We may say it is disfigured by sin and the fall. But everything that is, visible and invisible, seen and unseen, is created by God. All is sacred. We come to see as God sees as we rediscover this.

As the Holy Spirit continues its work within me, I have noticed more and more I am allowed glimpses of this. To see others as children of God. Brothers and sisters of mine. I am not very good at it, but at least I have moments with my harsh judgements and mental dismissing give way to thoughts of, “God loves that person, desires them to know him, weeps over their sins and rejoices over their steps of faith.”

There is no “secular” world. There is merely the world, as the creation of the Lord. We make it secular in making such distinctions in our efforts to isolate and classify. I pray God continues to remove the scales from my eyes that I may see things as they truly are, all things. All things that have come from God as symbol and reality of him.

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Filed under Eucharist, Theology

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