Bewitched by the divine presence in the world

While I am not a Roman Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox, we Anglicans share with them a sacramental vision of the world. When other Protestants ask me to define what this means, I invoke words of Anglican theologian Rowan Williams, who centers the sacramental vision in Eucharistic spirituality: “To take seriously the material food of the bread and wine can be the beginning of a proper and grateful reverence before all God’s material things – a doorway into seeing all things as demanding reverent attention, even contemplation” [1].

In Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer (1961), Binx Bolling unwittingly possess a sacramental vision as he recalls his experience with scientific research. I love this literary description of seeing life sacramentally:

I tried research one summer. I got interested in the role of the acid-base balance in the formation of renal calculi; really, it’s quite an interesting problem. I had a hunch you might get pigs to form oxalate stones by manipulating the pH of the blood, and maybe even to dissolve them. A friend of mine, a boy from Pittsburg named Harry Stern, and I read up the literature and presented the problems to Minor. He was enthusiastic, gave us everything we wanted and turned us loose for the summer. But then a peculiar thing happened. I became extraordinarily affected by the summer afternoons in the laboratory. The August sunlight came streaming in the great dusty fanlights and lay in yellow bars across the room. The old building ticked and creaked in the heat. Outside we could hear the cries of summer students playing touch football. In the course of an afternoon the yellow sunlight moved across old group pictures of the biology faculty. I became bewitched by the presence of the building; for minutes at a stretch I sat on the floor and watched the motes rise and fall in the sunlight. I called Harry’s attention to the presence but he shrugged and went on with his work. He was absolutely unaffected by the singularities of time and place. His abode was anywhere. It was all the same to him whether he catheterized a pig at four o’clock in the afternoon in New Orleans or at midnight in Transylvania. He was actually like one of those scientists in the movies who don’t care about anything but the problem in their heads – now here is a fellow who does have a “flair for research” and will be heard from. Yet I do not envy him. I would not change places with him if he discovered the cause and cure for cancer. For he is no more aware of the mystery which surrounds him than a fish is aware of the water it swims in. He could do research for a thousand years and never have an inkling of it. By the middle of August I could not see what difference it made whether the pigs got kidney stones or not (they didn’t, incidentally), compared to the mystery of those summer afternoons. I asked Harry if he would excuse me. He was glad enough to, since I was not much use to him sitting on the floor. I moved down to the Quarter where I spent the rest of the vacation in quest of the spirit of summer and in the company of an attractive and confused girl from Bennington who fancied herself a poet. 

[1] Rowan Williams, Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer

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