I can’t sleep, so I will write…
I am preparing a talk for next week on (as always) a spirituality of the laity suited to their secular mission to “consecrate the world itself to God,” as Vatican II says it. Whenever I enter into this doctrine, it completely alters my experience of life for days after thinking it through in prayer. It’s like I’ve shuffled through the Wardrobe into Narnia for a time, and came back.
At the root of this spirituality, I am convinced more and more, is a “spirituality of offering.” This is in fact the sum and substance of our baptismal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9), as priests’ mission is to consecrate the “stuff of life” and render it sacrificial, offering it up to the Most High. The whole spiritual life finds its vibrant epicenter here, as humanity was placed by God in creation to enact this most sacred transaction between heaven and earth. Being a unity of both matter and spirit, we are each a microcosm of two vastly different realms, perishable and imperishable. We are made of stardust stamped with the likeness of the Heavenly Spirit. Our bodies are the product of billions of years of cosmic star-death and resurrection, and as priests of the new covenant we draw this whole cycle of violent history into the Incarnate God’s own death and resurrection, that He might breathe peace on all things and transfigure them into the immortal glory of His divine-human life.
At the Transfiguration, Jesus, standing atop a high mountain to behold the vast horizons of creation, revealed in His priestly body our future glory. In Him, eternity has already penetrated into the very heart of the earth. He is the truest Heart of microcosmic Man, and in Him the divine Light blazes not downward on Him from above, but outward from within Him. Think of the image of the Sacred Heart. At the conception of God in the womb of Mary, the divine Fire moved from the foot of Sinai into the heart of the world. And those of us joined to Jesus by faith and baptism extend this conception of the divine Fire to the whole of creation (Mark 16:15) and permit it to soak deeper and deeper into the entire created order, penetrating even down into the dominion of hell with the dawning light of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The laity, called by God to sanctify the world “from within” by entering every corner of secular life – marriage and family, culture, politics, education, science, business, economics, etc. – effect this priestly transaction of consecration and up-offering by “doing the world” according the God’s will. Acting in justice and integrity, humility and courage, kindness and patient endurance; facing life’s hardships in faith; carrying out the works of mercy; spreading joy and hope; defending the defenseless and giving voice to the voiceless; and every other such manner of being upright in a fallen world – this renders the time and space we bodily inhabit, holy. “For justice is undying” (Wisdom 1:15).
Above all this offering is carried out in the spirit of ceaseless prayer, that priestly colloquy between God and man in which the Spirit is called down on all things and our sacrifice offered up to the Father in, with and through Christ. Creation looks to us, her priests, to voice her praise to the Creator and to rescue her from the bonds of death by joining her agony to our hope:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. (Romans 8:15-19).
Every moment of history, every tiny plot of earth we trod longs to be claimed for Heaven by us who bear, on behalf of all and for all, the immortal Fire within. Who bear love. Next time you can climb a mountain, take these words of Rainer Maria Rilke with you and recite them loudly to all you see:
And these Things,
which live by perishing, know you are praising them; transient,
they look to us for deliverance: us, the most transient of all.
They want us to change them, utterly, in our invisible heart,
within – oh endlessly – within us! Whoever we may be at last.
Earth, isn’t this what you want: to arise within us,
invisible? Isn’t it your dream
to be wholly invisible someday?
Perhaps we are here in order to say: house,
bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window –
at most: column, tower… But to say them, you must understand,
oh to say them more intensely than the Things themselves
ever dreamed of existing.
And then go to Mass and hand all of it over to the Celebrant, who will complete your consecration and offering, and then command you: Go, be sent! And gospelize the world some more…