Each evening, I take a walk through our urban neighborhood with my 2-year-old daughter. As we walk, she points out the bush that once gave her a splinter in the finger, grabs my hand to jump over puddles, and shrieks in delight to see a new mushroom growing under the oak tree on the corner. Looking around, I might see a tree, but she sees a red-breasted robin in the branches. I might see a field of green at the park, but she sees sweet-stemmed clover humming with bumblebees. In her youthful innocence, she sees more deeply.
For years now, I’ve been trying to improve my vision. By that, I don’t mean I’ve upgraded the prescription in my glasses. I mean that I’ve been attempting to drop my preconceptions and absurd pretensions of busyness, to pause, to stop, to see.
My daughter is the principal guide on my pilgrimage. When she isn’t around, I turn to the priest-poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, a man who possessed supernatural innocence and, because of that innocence, was a man of great wisdom. He wasn’t distracted by the expectation of what he was supposed to see. He looked upon the world with great love, and through that love was gifted divine vision into the very heart of creation. He would watch a field being plowed by farmers in the spring and, as the clods of dirt were broken from the earth in long gashes, he spied in their fertile richness the gold just underneath the surface, the promise of golden wheat. For him, the fall wheat was already there in all its beauty. It just took the right person to see it. The world was almost electric with a deep, aching power that hummed along and occasionally would flame forth in heavenly theophany.
He talked about, “the dearest freshness deep down things,” truths hidden since the foundation of the world. The world is a veiled miracle hiding Christ in every nook and cranny. In spite of surface appearances, in spite of our sins and betrayals, our fear and tentativeness, our doubt and confusion, He flames forth as our Savior to make us whole.
The pillar of fire, the manna in the desert, the journey through the Red Sea, Jacob’s Ladder with angels ascending and descending — it’s all recapitulated in Christ. Beneath all things, above all things, in all things, everything good and glorious, everything pure and beautiful falls from his hand.
I imagine Sts. Peter, James and John standing on Mount Tabor and watching their shadows lengthen in the last light of the reddening western sun. Suddenly Christ springs to glory before their eyes, His love dwarfing the power of the gathered stars. We stand with them, together in awe before Our Lord, His divine radiance warming the faces of the great and the small alike.
A few weeks ago on our walk, my daughter picked a four-leaf clover. She held it up so I might admire it. That’s when I knew. It’s so very good for us to be here.
Father Rennier is pastor of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in St. Louis. A former Anglican priest, he was ordained in 2016 under a pastoral provision for the reception of Anglicans and Episcopalians into full communion with the Catholic Church. He and his wife, Amber, have six children.