The mind goes up to high places where the earth’s crust bends toward heaven. It beholds majesty on earth and glory above the heavens (Ps. 8:1). Infants and babes know the language of this ascent, wordless sounds fit for the majesty and glory of the Most High God, sighs too deep for words and too strong for foes (Rom. 8:26; Ps. 8:2). Unless you become like a child, like an infant, you will never see or enter into the kingdom of God, whose very name cannot be named. God is the silent ground, the Word before speech, love’s voiceless return.
The mind’s eye looks up: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, / the moon and the stars you have established; / what are human beings that you are mindful of them, / mortals that you care for them?” (Ps. 8:3-5).
Yet this human, a mere speck in a vast ocean of created being, wants to praise You (St. Augustine). A little lower than angels, crowned with glory and honor, given mastery over the sheep and oxen, wild beasts, birds of the air, fish of the sea, whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea: this human being is given the task of humble and responsible dominion under the gaze of a transcendent Sovereign (Ps. 8:5-9).
God has done this. God has deigned to put his image and likeness into the clay and spirit of an earth creature. By God’s design and craft, human beings have the capacity to behold and imagine the world, and to give voice to every creature under heaven in praise and wonder. Such contemplation is nearly natural, the normal state of a soul at peace with God. “There is a good comparison between the soul and a delicate little feather. If a feather has not been touched by damp, it is so light that the slightest breath of wind can puff it high into the air” (John Cassian, Conference IX). “But, in truth, the feather is damp, something of which the silent ascetic is fully aware.”
We are weighted by the enemy and the avenger: sin, the flesh, and the devil. So, think less, for a moment, of going up, though the call is true. Have this lowly mind that was in Christ Jesus. Though equal to God, he humbled himself, taking the form of a servant, suffering death, even the curse of a bloody and cruel rejection on the hard wood of the cross. Only because he went, in the power of his eternal life, to the depth of a human hell, broke the chains of the ancient captives, bound the strong man, and rose again, every human being and all creation may be alive in him in whom all the fullness of God dwells.
The highest God has gone to the gallows. “Therefore God also exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). This genuflection is the immediate result of Christ’s incarnation (on earth), his death and descent among the dead (under the earth), and his resurrection and ascension (in heaven). He has claimed and conquered in love what is rightly his own.
In union with Christ, our ascent is assured; the feather is dry. Set your minds on things that are above; I lift up my eyes to the hills. Grace has done this.
Look It Up
Read Luke 2:19. A treasure to ponder.
Think About It
The Name, the presence, is in all the earth, under the earth, and in heaven.
Image by Michael Matti/Flickr