In a city that grows fast, grows up, grows out, spare land is quickly snatched up. Buildings come and go to make way for more structures, bigger, brighter, brasher. The built landscape changes shape, pushed and bucked by trends and new ideas, anticipating the future, sometimes succeeding, sometimes falling short.
One can look at a spare plot of land and see its potential in different ways. A developer or architect may look at it and see a place on which to build, higher and higher, blocks of steel and concrete, feeding commerce. A gardener or environmentalist may see an unused patch and imagine it is a place for nature or growing food. Or maybe someone who works each day in the city sees the potential for a tranquil park, an oasis of peace amid the demands and business of their day. Often, financial profit and commerce win the day. What’s important to us, for others? How do we see the land that lies around us? How do we see the world in which we live, and the communities of which we are a part?
“If only we knew how to look at life as God sees it,” wrote Michel Quoist, “we should realise that nothing is secular in the world… to have faith is not only to raise one’s eyes to God to contemplate him; it is also to look at this world – but with Christ’s eyes.”
“The world would no longer be an obstacle, it would be a perpetual incentive to work for the Father in order that, in Christ, his kingdom might come on earth as in heaven.”
“If only we knew how to look at life as God sees it, we should realise that nothing is secular in the world…Michel Quoist
The Eucharist is the source and the summit of the Christian Life, the most important act of public worship. Within many churches of the Anglican Communion much has occurred within the last 100 years to give the Eucharist its central place, and it was something that the late nineteenth century priests of St Mary’s contributed to the life of the Church.
And yet, “the aim must be to extend the action and meaning of the Eucharist out from the centre to the furthest edges of life, so that the whole of life is conformed to the living Lord who gives himself to us at the altar,” wrote the Anglican priest and theologian, John Macquarrie.
Hymn of the Universe
In one of his beautiful meditations in the ‘Hymn of the Universe’, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, recalls a conversation with a friend who experienced “a very strange impression” as he knelt before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a monstrance.
“I had the impression as I gazed at the host that its surface was gradually spreading out like a spot of oil but of course much more swiftly and luminously.”
“The flow of whiteness enveloped me, passed beyond me, overran everything…through the mysterious expansion of the host, the whole world had become incandescent, had itself become like a single giant host.”
“The immense host, having given life to everything and purified everything, was now slowly contracting, and the treasures it was drawing into itself were joyously pressed close together within its living light.”
The grandeur of God
“The world is filled with the grandeur of God,” wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins. And yet “all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; | And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil Is bare now.” But then continues : And for all this, nature is never spent… Because the Holy Ghost over the bent | World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”
Yes, God does make himself known in the things he has made (see Romans 1:20) but he also makes himself known in even more precise and distinct ways, something we see in a glorious way in the Incarnation, in the person of Jesus Christ, and who himself took bread and wine, and gave them us as his body and blood, a sacred means to share in his presence.
“If there were no particular place where one might find Christ present,” says John Macquarrie, “I do not think he would be present anywhere.” The Eucharist is at the heart of the consecration of our lives, the consecration of the matter and material of our lives, and so then of the consecration of the world and the universe.
“If there were no particular place where one might find Christ present, I do not think he would be present anywhere.”John Macquarrie
The Eucharist is part of the transformative purposes of God, so that the whole world, filled with the grandeur of God, may be “conformed to the Living Lord who gives himself to us in the altar.”
“If we knew how to listen to God, if we knew how to look around us,” said Michel Quoist, “our whole life would become prayer.”