There is a paradox in the workings of the human senses.
Seeing is only human insofar as it can see that which is invisible – a face with a name, a name that is “not written on the face”, as popular wisdom understands so well.
The ear becomes human only when it can hear the sound of a silent voice: a thought. It is designed for that which is unheard.
Smell recognises the aroma of a presence; taste savours food and drink offered by our hosts to seal our friendship.
Touch can only experience what is solid when the ground on which it rests is groundless. Art inhabits this paradox, which is why it has an affinity with the spiritual senses.
We can talk of a wisdom of the body encountering the biblical experience of the spiritual senses. It is a matter of discovering our humanity in the footsteps of Christ’s humanity.
It is true that one aspect of Christian tradition used to hide this wisdom behind a veil, relegating the senses to the status of an enemy to be fended off. On the other hand, it is a real pity that so many people now consider the wisdom of the body to be found only in what comes to us from the Orient: Yoga, Zen…
We must not disparage these ways, brought to us by the intermingling of cultures.
They serve to introduce us to what already belongs to us.
“When the good God is in the heart, he does everything there … when someone has once tasted God, he continuously comes back to him. It is a capital that he has in his soul and to which he is constantly brought back as to his centre. He will love to converse with him. “
The Christian can welcome with much gratitude this invitation to move towards the transfiguration of the flesh accomplished in Christ – a transfiguration that seeks nothing other than to return to the origins.
When the sculptor of Chartres wanted to depict Adam in the mind of the creator God, he carved the face of a man face-to-face with a cross-shaped halo, the sign of the dying and risen Son.
The way is very simple, as it is simply a matter of reading the biblical texts: first of all, the Gospels, giving the accounts of Jesus’ life, his words on the mountain, his parables; then Moses and Isaiah who spoke about him.
And what is said of Abraham whose joy was so great when he saw his day; as well as the Psalms – the bearers, night and day, of the hope of Israel, to be fulfilled in Him.
It is a matter of allowing the text its full weight, listening to it, receiving it in silence, not rushing ahead so much that we feel it as a burden; but patiently waiting for the time when we can feel how light it really is.
It is helpful to be discreetly aided by images, so as not to miss out on the richness of what speaks to the senses.
We must not be afraid to allow experiences like that of water springing forth, fields maturing under the sun, the joy of arriving at the city gates, to revisit us, so that we can come a little closer to other waters, another sun, another city.
It is true that we struggle against the flesh, but not with the way of those who proudly, and with difficulty, avoid the struggle through the proud success of a spirit “freed” from the flesh. It is rather with patient watchfulness that we can overcome the weakness of the flesh; a weakness that has failed to keep vigil with its Lord.
And it is also that same patience which allows the promptness of the spirit to heal its tendency to greed.
It must also be said that this lengthy dwelling on the texts is a marvellous school, inculcating a taste for the serious work of exegesis and of the theological thinking that is nourished by it.
- From: “Journey with Colin A doorway to the Marist Project Nazareth”