Monday, June 11, 2007


A man digs a lump of rock from the ground. He puts it into furnace. The furnace is so hot that it melts the rock so that the dirt and dreck in it are skimmed off and the pure metal remaining is poured into a mold. The iron cools, and then the ingot is taken up again and thrust into a forge. Another man beats the iron with a hammer, flattening it, folding it, reheating it, shaping it, twisting it, heating and beating over and over. In the end, it is an exquisitely wrought latch, placed on the door of a cathedral, as graceful in form as it is in function, and by it thousands enter in to worship the one true God.

Another man puts a plow blade into the soil and turns up the rich black earth. He works the ground to prepare it for the seed that the sows. He watches the seed sprout, and grow and turn mature and ripe. At the appointed hour he reaps the wheat, threshes it, winnows away the chaff. He takes baskets and basket of this wheat to the miller, who grinds it to flour. The baker buys it, mixes it with water and yeast and puts it into an oven to bake bread. In the end, it too goes into the cathedral, where it is broken and served. If feeds not just the body, but the entire soul for in taking this bread, these people somehow take into themselves the One True God.

Two people gather up the sand of the sea. He places it in a kiln so hot that the sand grains melt together to become liquid. He refines this liquid and adds other minerals to color it. He rolls it out as it cools, so that it becomes sheets of solid light, colored and varied. She cuts the glass, and fits it together with strips of lead. From this she makes pictures of saints, images of prophets and priests and kings and patriarchs. In the end, they go into the windows of the cathedral, and those who look are reminded of how the Light of Christ shines through our lives, just like those saints. They think about the saints, and somehow move just a little bit closer to them.

Still another man sits at his desk for hours. In front of him are books on books on books. Above them all is the One Book of Books. To the untrained eye, it seems that he sits without moving. But the discerning watcher knows that he is wrestling with the text, grappling with what the One True God is saying to His people. It is as if with his bare hands he is trying to tear out the message. Some days it flows like cool water. Other days it is like an obstinate stone that will not budge. But this is his work, to wrestle, to grapple, to hold onto and ultimately to give away the Word to those who have ears to hear. In the end, the Preacher stands up and preaches, and the words he speaks open up the very Word of God to those present, and somehow, the Sprit moves and transforms a life.

A woman digs a soft lump of wet earth from the ground. She brings it back to her workshop. She mixes it with water, strains out the sand and grit, and dries the remaining silt. When it is dry enough, she lifts out a lump and slaps the clay onto the wheel. Her wet hands dance into and around the mud, lifting and pressing, teasing and demanding until the pitcher is fully formed. It is dried and placed into the kiln where the earth is transformed into stone. She paints it and fires it again so that it is now covered in a thin layer of bright glass. It’s shape is graceful and elegant and simple. A priest fills it with water, and asked God to bless it. He pours the water into the vessel, also made of clay. He dips his hand in the water and pours it onto the baby’s head, (dip) in the Name of the Father, (dip) and of the Son, (dip) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. The water trickles musically over the soft thin hair and back into the font, and somehow the One True and Living God is well pleased.

Another man takes his shears out into the orchard. Carefully, he selects each branch for pruning. It is delicate work. These trees go back further into his family’s history than the records. In time the trees fruit, and the fruit ripens and is collected and pressed and rich green oil flows from the press, deeply scented, heavy and rich. It is placed into jars, and some into small flasks. In the end, it is poured out, and the priest dips his thumb into it and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of a young man, now confirmed in the faith. He never forgets the feeling of that wet rich oil on his forehead, and for the rest of his life feels the mark of the Spirit upon him.

And so God meets us, not in the rarefied air of space, or in the bodiless spiritual someplace. He meets us here, on earth, right now. He presents Himself to us in everyday things that He himself declares holy. We find Him in other things that He has taught us to make holy. How is it that these base things can lift us up and exalt us even to the highest heavens. These are what he has chosen to help us see and know Him. It is mystery indeed.

Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus!!
Dominus Deus Sabaoth,
Pleni sunt caeli et terra in gloria tua.