Journeying in a
sacramental universe

'In the encounter with sacred ground we have not merely come to the 'Wheel of the Year' but to the wheel of history and the wheel of the universe - indeed the wheel of our lives. Expressed in simpler language, it is the insight that it is love that makes the world go round.'

- Prof Stephen Oliver Beasley-Murray

A human being is wholly an animal, matter and physical yet it has a core, a centre, a ‘heart’ or consciousness that possesses creativity, will and reason. In this realm of freedom it can know another intimately - an epiphany of love-in-flesh. The epiphany is when the irreducible mystery of the other opens  up to become the ground of the sacred. In love’s aspect of taking one out to a world beyond our comprehension it takes on the ‘tremendum’ aspect of the sacred.

 

Inasmuch as love takes one to the core of one's being, sacred union expresses itself in ecstasy, the opening of the ground to become sacred ground, the ‘fascinans’ aspect of the ‘Mysterium tremendum et fascinans’. A classic example of this experience occurs at the death of a loved one. We are filled with grief such that silence alone can fill our emptiness. As time progresses, a day comes when the remembering gives way to joy and wonder. The tremendum aspect makes way for the fascinans aspect of our sacred memories of the beloved; the mystery of the beloved becomes present with immediacy and a peace is given that is beyond understanding, if not to consciousness then in the subconscious.

 

The dual aspect of tremendum and fascinans in the mystery of existence and in particular in its expression in human love is its distinctive quality. To insist on the unity of the two aspects is what is meant by a sacramental understanding of the universe. The ‘within’ that lies at the heart of matter is one with the ‘without’, the scientific realm of observable material existence. Within this sacramental experience it makes sense to speak of the union of the two in a day in time as the goal of history and the goal of nature (though it can equally be expressed as a return to its original golden age, a return to Eden). In this sense there is an evolution (or a turning back) in which the epiphany of love-in-flesh is the 'secret' of the universe, the mystery that all know but cannot be told, only encountered. The sacred and love are one and the same.

 

In earth religion this truth is expressed in the loving relationship between the Goddess and the God. In Christianity it is expressed simply as ‘God is Love’. In the former, nature is clearly divinised and the divine is immanently present at any moment in time. In the latter there is an ambiguous relationship between nature and immanent mystery. Inasmuch as Christianity affirms the notion of the Cosmic Christ, the epiphany of love in flesh becomes another way of speaking of ‘The Word become Flesh’, or the doctrine of Incarnation implied in the name, ‘Jesus Christ’.

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© 2018 by Stephen Oliver Beasley-Murray