As I was looking over the calendar for November, I saw that on the 6th we honor Archbishop William Temple. While we may not be aware of him as much today, he was, all the same, an important man. He served as bishop of two Anglican sees before becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury. His ministry, as it happens, was set in the time of World War II, and while he has a number of books attributed to him, he was also an important proponent of a social order that included dignity for everyone—especially Jewish people in England at the time.
In one of his books, Christus Veritas, I remember this striking line in which Abp. Temple says “the Universe is sacramental…”
Temple had been setting up this discussion about how the elements and signs in which we participate in the Church point to a deeper truth—but it is the grace of God which makes it a divine participation. In other words, these things are not only reminders, but God chooses to participate in them to be with us. So, to say that the Universe is sacramental is to say that Creation is (as we say of sacraments) an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. That is to say, that which God has created, God sees fit to inhabit in a real way so as to be with us, and participate with us in this life… And if we can believe this, then we should somehow get this idea that God is with us always, and in all things. But more importantly, and profoundly, I love this idea that God chooses to participate in Creation to be nearer to us just as God participates in the sacraments.
But, I suppose this idea is kind of a given. I mean, after all, is it really any surprise that God should somehow participate and inhabit in a mystical way that which God has created? Perhaps not. And I suppose, in the way that God chooses to empty God’s self in the Incarnation—Jesus Christ—should be part and parcel in this kind of participation in Creation. And yet, I wonder, if this seems like such an obvious idea; why does it seem so difficult for us to recognize the Presence of God at times? I don’t know. However, even when I seem to be missing God’s Presence in the sacrament, I continue to show up. And whether it’s due to sheer stubbornness on my part, or because God is faithful when I’m myopic, eventually I catch a glimpse, and it’s just enough to remind me that God is present, and the Universe just may be sacramental as William Temple says…
Sermons and Other Thoughts from the Rector can be found here: