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A Foundational Sense of Awe

A Time of Unveiling

A Foundational Sense of Awe
Wednesday, January 6, 2021
Feast of Epiphany

Abandon hidden things, / Take up what is revealed! —Ephrem the Syrian, Hymn 81

Healthy religion gives us a foundational sense of awe. It re-enchants an otherwise empty universe. It gives people a universal reverence toward all things. Only with such reverence do we find confidence and coherence. Only then does the world become a safe home. Then we can see the reflection of the divine image in the human, in the animal, in the entire natural world—which has now become inherently “supernatural.” CAC teacher Barbara Holmes describes this awakening so well and poetically:

When we are fully alert in spirit, mind, and body, we are more than we imagine and can accomplish more than we suppose. Moments of awareness occur as a dawning of meaning, when the familiar suddenly becomes infused with new insights or unfamiliar ideas merge with the wellspring of experiences and beliefs that pervade human consciousness. Such occasions feel like personal discoveries. While in the midst of an epiphany, folks inevitably apply the term “discovery” to lands, people, and ideas that have always been present. We use the language of strange and alien sightings when the more accurate statement would be, “Eureka! I have just awakened to a long-standing reality that an inner unveiling has finally allowed me to see.” . . .

An awakening is necessary to reconnect us to our origins and one another. [1]

Instead of nurturing awe, reconnection, and awakening, I’m sorry to say that today we have a lot of ideological hysteria and junk religion—on both the left and the right. Junk religion is similar to junk food because it only satisfies enough to gratify the momentary desire but does not really feed the intellect or the heart. Junk religion is usually characterized by fear of the present and fear of the future. What we experience when people have really met God is that there is no fear of the present because it is always full. There’s no fear of the future because a loving God is in charge. There’s no fear of the past because it has been healed and forgiven. Then people do not use God to avoid reality or to fabricate a private, self-serving reality. They let God lead them into the fullness of Reality; not away from dilemmas and paradoxes, but right onto the horns of the human dilemma!

Whatever reconstruction we’re going to do cannot be based on fear or on reaction. It has to be based on a positive and fully human experience of God as a loving Presence. True religion is ready to let God be God, and to let God lead us into a new future that we do not yet understand—and no longer even need to understand.

References:
[1] Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos, 2nd ed. (CAC Publishing: 2020), 45.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Franciscan Media: 2020), 65, 74.

Story from Our Community:
Recently my 47-year-old son died by suicide. The true cause of death was mental illness, substance abuse and the inability to feel worth in simply existing. Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations have been part of my morning routine for a few years, as I struggle to rebuild a bridge to belief. Now, these daily messages are my lifeline. If not to faith, then to hope and, most especially, to love. I can’t say that I understand how suffering provides the pathway to being one with all things in love, but they help me to stop trying to understand and start laying the paver stones. I am grateful. —Mary S.

Image credit: Basket and Tree Root (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Used with Permission.
Like the exposed roots of a tree, reality unveiled can be many things at the same time: sharp, smooth, ugly, beautiful, painful, and healing.
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