Mystical Meanings of Things

The groundhog is surely larger-than-life when February comes around as a national symbol of hope for spring or an early warning sign for the extent of winter yet ahead. In terms of the layering of meaning, one might ask: When is an orange more than an orange? A response as Lent approaches might be: When that orange is contemplated for its whole reality: its deep color, its nutritious value, its marvel of growth from seeds that contain generations of botanical heritage, its dependence on the labors of migrant workers.

Similarly, we look at bread for its origins in a wheat seed, its growth through sun and soil and rain, its planters and harvesters, its transformation into flour and then dough and then baked bread. Bread, furthermore, has Eucharistic overtones, the potential to nourish sacramentally.

Pope Francis I suggests in the encyclical on Our Common Home that we consider the “mystical meaning of things”: a snowflake; snow in all its multiple forms; a whale; a tomato; water. The Pope is suggesting that virtually everything is more than meets the eye; everything in creation is interdependent, fragile, possessing a history. For example, the deep contemplation of water might well lead us to the connection between “The Cry of Earth and the Cry of the Poor.” 

Our response upon contemplating the realities of our earth might well be awe and wonder and even a sense of humility. To examine the mystical meanings of things is to reflect on their sacramental potential and their layers of symbolic meanings.

What a simply yet profound practice in Lent: contemplation of things—one gift of creation at a time-- and of people--one miraculous person at a time.

Dear Jesus,
Incarnate Word,
only You know the depths of meaning
In all of creation
and in each living person.
May we contemplate 
All that You have made
And discover 
beautiful realities in each and all.