I step out and into October with its gentle light, subdued colours, and fragrances, sounds of wind in pine, gurgling trickles of streams, birds lining up on the wire. And in Lecarrow trees of every shape offer their transitioning colours in yellows, tangerine, and reds. How I enjoy feeling the soft moments of sun. My whole being needs this walk, including my brain which gets clogged when too sedentary.
Aspects of Mark Patrick Hederman’s little book, Symbolism, have drawn me into a new appreciation of something quite familiar. He describes his childhood before he entered school at nine. He had time to explore, mostly by pony, hills vales, and glens, ring forts and tunnels, and listen to the old folk hint of other worlds. This time fed and expanded his senses and imagination. He acclaims JK Rowling’s magical world of Harry Potter for delighting the imagination. Hederman is getting to his point: that we need a mythical imagination to tune into the realm of eternity.
We are hovering in a time-space capsule – really a crucible in which we are being fashioned for eternity – while a world beyond beckons. A metaphor suggesting that “the effect of divine love in us is to break the potbound periphery of our natural biological limitations and open us out through the cracks. We have to be broken open. The walls have to be razed. We have to be ploughed like earth prepared for harvest.” We need to be porous. We need to expand. Full realization of our personhood can only be etched by the Holy Spirit inspiring us to push through to the dimension within us which is eternal.
We can complain about the rancidness of our world or we can shut down and live in our own bubble. We can decry the lack of meaning or we can check out by way of addictions. We can claim that we are happy and normal all the while something deep inside yearns for more.
Hederman opens up a new world to us provided we put on a more mythical consciousness willing to expand our imagination and enter into a total experience of the spiritual and physical senses via symbol: Liturgy. Liturgy makes present. Liturgical symbolism is eschatological. Liturgy anticipates our ultimate eternal destiny. One needs a mythical understanding to believe that the mysteries of Christ’s coming, his life, death, resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost have already inaugurated the new aeon of the kingdom of God. What is meant to happen at end time has already happened even as we still wait. Liturgy makes real the whole mystery of completeness, the meaning of everything that is, the perfection of what was intended from the beginning of time. Jesus realized the full potential and everlasting viability of what it means to be as a human being. He left his “Do this in memory of me” so that each of us can become fully alive through the Holy Spirit who allows us to apply and integrate what Christ is – his very being into the specific reality of who we are.
We need to seek in the liturgy the vision implied in its own structure and texts and symbolism. We can’t bring just our own mindset; that’s staying in our bubble. We need Revelation.
We become what we celebrate. The liturgy happens to us. It is something we step into. We listen to the words and take them to heart. We make ourselves one with the gestures. We celebrate that the Son of God has given over every atom of his human body, emptied himself, so that we might be able to mystically join with his offering to his Father through the Spirit. We celebrate what we become now and forever after. We eat and drink and absorb and assimilate. Transubstantiation describes what happens to bread and wine and that we, too, become the Body and Blood of Christ. Our eating and drinking transform us into the resurrected person that we are. It puts us in right relationship with each other. We become one body as radii of the same circle which meet and join at the centre, our Christ. Through the Holy Spirit we in Christ return to the Father. Every time we celebrate the liturgy, we step further into the realm of eternity.
Does all this sound otherworldly? It should, but not in a way that rejects our human senses, our humanness. This drama draws us into a place that can enliven and restore us in our struggles to organize chaos and bring meaning to decisions now. During this life-changing drama we can let go of all our fears and concerns into the one prayer of Christ: Thy kingdom come! And soon!