My theological jam

The divinized hands of a Royal Priest chrism’d by Baptism

I just got off the phone with a theologian from Opus Dei, whom I met on a trip last May. We hit it off immediately and exchanged ideas that made us feel like long lost brothers. Our electric conversation was about “my theological jam” (fitfully attempting to use a vogue phrase), the mission of the laity to discover “transforming union” with God, not by becoming otherworldly but by virtuously and passionately engaging in temporal, secular, mundane, worldly activities.

In fact, we had a moment in the conversation when I had to put the phone down and catch my breath under a spell of near-fatal awe. Here’s the substance of what he and I explored over about a five minute stretch of the whole conversation:

Consecrated in Baptism as royal priests, we faithful have been empowered as Christ’s Body (for real) to bless, consecrate and offer up in sacrifice to the eternal Father the temporal order under our sway. Aside: the “temporal order” is all of the time-bound affairs and concerns of us civilization building earthly mammals stamped with God’s image.

But here’s where my phone fell. He said, “the laity are tasked with giving Christ leave to become fully secular in every imaginable form … we are Christ making a living as a computer programmer, a maid, a CEO, a professor, an engineer, a politician, a widow, a spouse, a father, a physician, a Canadian citizen, a musician, a passenger on Southwest airlines, a small business owner, a driver, a cancer patient, et alia.”

The Baptized, in a state of grace, allow Christ to save and sanctify every nook and cranny of life in the world.

For most of His life, Jesus was a small business owner before He began His public ministry, and precisely as a carpenter-artisan He was making a new heaven and a new earth in the hidden shadows of His tiny Nazareth workshop.

Christ longs to become all things in all men, longs to “take up” as His own all that we are in every age, in every place, at every moment, because He loves all that He has made (Wisdom 11:24), loves to the extreme all that has fallen into death, and longs for all to be raised up and joined to Him in mercy and love.

By becoming Incarnate, God assumed human flesh and soul, culture and labor, relationships and suffering, time and space. Even sin (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). In Christ God united to Himself the entirety of the fallen created order to redeem her, that He might “marry” her in a new creation.

As we spoke, I thought of the extraordinary words of Isaiah 62:4-5:

You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your Builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

These are no mere metaphors. The Triune God wishes to draw the “land,” all things to — and into — Himself through us (John 12:32).

Through us. Take in for a moment the grandeur of that prepositional phrase. Look at your hands, hold your calloused palms upward, and, with a fiat, lift the whole cosmos Up to Him.

Virtuously living secular lives in the world — in all worthy professions, in marriage and family life, in every labor and leisure, in culture and civic life — the laity give Christ the freedom to send out His wedding invitation to the whole of creation. Every moment is pregnant with a fresh resurrection.

Saints’ relics are the material signs of our consent to the Proposal, and of jubilant matter awaiting the final consummating resurrection at the End when the Bridegroom will delight and rejoice over His Bride for all ages (Romans 8:20-21).

Here in this world, men and women called to remain deeply embedded in secular affairs are — hear mesupremely dignified, as they allow Christ to be where He most desires to be and do what He most desires to do: so love the world (John 3:16).

In such a world vision, those who suddenly find themselves on fire for God will know this Fire within first forges not world-fleeing saints, but world-freeing ones. Ite, missa est…

14 comments on “My theological jam

  1. Jennifer says:

    The concept which made your phone drop is much like what Caryll Houselander expresses in “The Reed of God” which caused my own dropping of objects (including the book, my jaw, my knees). Completely revolutionized me when I read it and to see it happening — which of course it does again and again — still manages to always stun me with awe. Incredible Jesus infusing the extraordinary into the ordinary.

    Oh, and thanks for confirming that Christ even is at work amongst and within us Canadians 😉

    Finally, I’m thanking God for your spiritual friendship and brotherhood with your fellow theologian. God bless and live through your relationship!

    Jam on, Tom!

    • Caryll Houselander—YES!!—-that mystical experience she had of this insight is such a theological gem, and her writings embody it so powerfully. As with Dorothy Day and Catherine Doherty. So much richness to build on! Thank you for commenting, as ever.

  2. AMDG says:

    This is perfect for today, little feast of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, who lived as many years as a young, contemplative-in-the-world musician as she did a contemplative Carmelite behind the grille.
    St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, pray for us to be LOVE in the world.

  3. jerry says:

    Thanks for the inspiration. Just the words I needed to hear as I begin my day at work.

  4. Oh hot damn…
    This is my jam.

  5. Katy Dornbos says:

    YES YES YES. Especially love this:
    Here in this world, men and women called to remain deeply embedded in secular affairs are — hear me — supremely dignified, as they allow Christ to be where He most desires to be and do what He most desires to do: so love the world (John 3:16).

  6. Frank says:

    When I had my conversion to Catholicism in college the first thing that happened to me after I got involved in the spiritual vibe of the campus ministry was I lost all interest in the career I’d been studying for. I also lost interest in school and my fraternity and wanted to be at church all day and my grades dropped.

    My parents were pissed as they’d spent tons of money on my education and were baffled why God in my life equaled killing my longtime interest in going into politics. I couldn’t really answer at the time other than God was more important than politics or other worldly pursuits. But because I didn’t want to be a priest or religious brother it seemed to them I was just lost. My dad was like – are you going to wander the streets as a preacher and beg for money??

    I guess my point is your message here is needed for young people like me to hear so we can see better what God might be leading us to and not just assume being super spiritual means not being interested in any secular ambitions or careers

  7. amyansaturday says:

    Just FABULOUS!♥️

  8. tmm says:

    📖 Galatians 2:20 “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me”
    The “why” and the “how” to all that was said in regards to the baptized, in a state of grace, allowing Christ to save and sanctify, and Christ being allowed to be where He most desires, doing what He most desires to do, pointed me to that scripture. A first for me, DTJN, was deciding to read the post in the Adoration Chapel. It was meant that it set the tone for the plea of the hour. No better place to enkindle the fire. As “laity” living the present moment, not I, but Christ in me, it’s bingo in the eyes of the Father. All that really matters to me is to allow each person of the Holy Trinity to have His own way. May all come to know that the puzzle is not complete without the laity’s piece interlocking and contributing to a beautifully configured body of Christ. Christ alone writes straight with crooked lines. To ask is to receive, so this hour my petition is for myself and others, that it be Christ who truly liveth in us. Catholics really should, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, say:
    📖 Luke 24:29 But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

    👀Look around & 1 will find things dat sears
    There’s a reason we can make it through life’s real valley of tears
    Jesus is here 2 take care of everything & 2 deliver us from all fears
    / \ tmm/PTL

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