Wondering as I Wander
Recently former Seton teacher Mike Brown (married to Seton alumna Therese McCarron) gave a talk at Christendom College where he is now no longer simply Mr. Brown but alternately Professor Brown and Coach Brown: professor, adjunct though he may be, of philosophy and coach of basketball and, until recently, of volleyball. Mike is a clear-thinking philosopher and is able to make difficult concepts understandable to those of us in lower philosophical echelons and a very successful coach. He is funny and, from what I have read, dresses well. The last time I talked philosophy with him was at a wedding reception of Seton alumni. I don’t remember anything that he said (I was probably concentrating too hard on the cake and mints), but I do remember being entertained.
Mike’s speech topic was “Wonder and the Pursuit of Wisdom”. Reducing his content to a thesis statement, this is what he argued based on Aquinas and Aristotle: “Man’s wonder leads him to seek causes of things which ultimately can only be satisfied by reaching the First Cause of all things which is the Divine Essence.” And his thesis reduced yet further: “We are connected to God through wonderment.”
I have been wondering as I’ve been wandering out under the sky about this. And as I wondered as I wandered I was praying the Joyful Mysteries when suddenly within these mysteries I began to see in each one the wonderment of Blessed Mother. Joined to the Trinity in her exalted relationships as most beloved daughter, mother and spouse, she nonetheless lived her life in wonderment always being brought nearer to a perfect union with the Divine Essence. Let’s look at two mysteries to see this.
The Annunciation. “How can this be….?” Wonderment. How was the plan of her Divine Maternity to be realized? The angel’s answer, though sufficient, could not have fully satisfied her wonderment. The overshadowing, which we cannot fathom, took place creating a union of creature with God unknown to another, and yet Mary must still have wondered throughout her life about this mystical union and its completion in the Incarnation which made her the Mother of God.
The Visitation. “Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth wonders. And on the road from Nazareth to Ein Karem, Mary must have been wondering. Elizabeth’s question brings forth the fruit of Blessed Mother’s wondering – the Magnificat. The richness of her joyous paean can only be plumbed by all the generations who call her blessed by a wonderment over her words.
I leave the three remaining Joyful Mysteries, the Wedding Feast at Cana, the meeting on the Via Dolorosa, the Stabat Mater, the Pieta, the Descent of the Holy Spirit and the other events of Mary’s life for you to wonder over Blessed Mother’s wonderment.
I see in Blessed Mother’s wondering a model for our personal relationship with God. In fact, I think that “wonderment” might be the equivalent of “a personal relationship”. Only insofar as we wonder about the joys, the light, the sorrows and the glories of our Lord’s life as well as our own lives in the context of the God’s providential love, are we in relation with Him.
You may recall that I had said that I didn’t like the term “personal relationship”, though I didn’t know exactly why. I wondered a little about this, and I think I figured out why. Growing up in the 60’sand 70’s there was an attitude that always seemed to be reducing the transcendent nature of God to the realm of us mere mortals. Here’s an example. My sister Kath told me about a CYO gathering at which a nun gave a talk about what was probably the equivalent of developing a personal relationship with God. The nun asked my cousin how she pictured Jesus. There was a painting on the wall of Jesus in a tunic, maybe as the Good Shepherd. My cousin pointed to the picture of Jesus and said that it represented how she pictured Our Lord. The nun told her she was wrong. She said that we should be picturing Him in jeans and a t-shirt; we needed to picture Him as one of us.
The transcendent and the common are united in Christ. It is an unbreakable tension that we can only wonder at. But I do think if we make Our Lord just like us, that we destroy the tension. There are times in the Scripture where we read that the Apostles were afraid to ask Him any more questions. They held back from approaching too nearly to the Divine Essence It’s a little like this. I have had former teachers that I still call Dr. or Mr. or Mrs. tell me to call them by their first name. I have had priests that I call Father Last Name tell me to call them Father First Name. I try, but I do not like it. I don’t want to reduce the teacher or the priest to my level. I may now be friend rather than pupil, but that relationship of teacher is never completely lost. And the exalted vocation of priest can never be denied.
So, until my wanderings show me something different, I will seek through my wondering in this Year of Faith to grow in my relationship with the transcendent God, Who has become like us in all things but sin and has chosen to dwell among us.
Jezu, ufam Tobie.