Sacramental Worldview

08-30-2015This Week in Vidi DominumFr. Will Schmid

When I was growing up, I enjoyed spending time at the mall. While my parents would make their way from Dillards to Footlocker, I would spend some time looking at the various vender carts outside the stores. One of my favorite vender carts was the Magic Eye cart. For those who are unfamiliar with Magic Eye, it is a series of books that contain autostereograms, which are patterns of shapes and colors that when looked at correctly cause some viewers to see three-dimensional images. At first glance, a Magic Eye image is uninteresting. It is merely a pattern of shapes and colors that are not very appealing. However, when looked at carefully, a three-dimensional image is hidden within the uninteresting pattern.

In order to see the hidden three dimensional image, you have to change the entire way you approach the image. You cannot see the hidden image if you approach it the way you approach any other picture. The process of seeing the hidden image demands a change in both how you look at the image and where you physically place yourself in relation to the image. First, you must come extremely close to the image, to the point where your nose is almost touching the picture. Second, you must focus carefully on a center point of the image and stare at it for a few seconds. Third, you must slowly begin to move away from the image while at the same time keeping your atten- tion focused on the same center point. As the 4 distance between yourself and the image increases, you should begin to see a threedimensional image hidden within the twodimensional pattern of shapes and colors. Once the image has been revealed, you can then move your eyes around the picture to see the fullness of the hidden image. However, the moment you take your gaze away from the picture, you will have to repeat the process to see it again.  

The hidden image is usually a very simple image (ex. a balloon, a sailboat, a tower, etc..). The exciting part about a Magic Eye is not the complexity of the image but the fact that there is a hidden three-dimensional image within a two-dimensional pattern of shapes and colors. The Magic Eye vender cart was a great time filler for me when I was a child. It provided me with the exact amount of entertainment I needed so that my parents could finish their shopping.

So what does this have to do with the Catholic faith? Well, Catholics see the world differently than other people. The way we approach the world is different than the way others approach the world, and in order to truly understand the Catholic position on anything, one must first understand how a Catholic approaches the world. While a non-Catholic sees various twodimensional patterns of shapes and colors, the Catholic sees a hidden three-dimensional image within the two-dimensional pattern of shapes and colors. This hidden image is the reason why Catholics do things that seem silly to others.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote, "There are not one in a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church." I believe one of the reasons why there is so much animosity that exists towards the Catholic Church in today's culture has largely to do with the fact that people struggle to understand the Catholic worldview. If you didn't know that a Magic Eye was an autostereogram, you would think a person crazy if they stood so close to it that their nose was almost touching it. You would probably want to lock them up in the looney bin if they told you that they saw a hidden rabbit while all you can see is a series of uninteresting shapes and colors. Much of the disdain for the Catholic Church comes from this misunderstanding. Once you can understand how Catholics approach the world, then you can begin to see the logic behind what Catholics believe and why they live their lives the way they do.

This leads us to a very pivotal question: "What is the Catholic worldview?" In a sense, the Catholic worldview is very much like a Magic Eye. Catholics look at the world around them and see something hidden within it. This hidden three-dimensional image is so significant that the shapes and colors from the twodimensional image only have value in so far as they contribute to the presentation of the hidden image. Catholics believe that God created the world in such a way that it's primary purpose is to make visible the invisible God. Each and every aspect of creation has the purpose and mission of communicating the glory of God. In fact, the Catholic would go as far to say that a thing only authentically fulfills its purpose in so far as it gives testimony (or witness) to God.

In this way, the world around us is not what it seems. For example, to a Catholic, a sunset is more than a series of colors produced by the light rays of a setting sun across a particular landscape. Hidden within that sunset is an image of the loving God who created the sun, the light, the earth, and the sky so that man could enjoy them. In this way, each and every sunset is a reminder of how the world was created for us and that we are called to be stewards of this magnificent creation. The fullness of the created world's capacity to make visible the invisible God is found in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In Christ, we see more than just shadows and reflections of the invisible God, we see God Himself. When God descended from heaven and became one with us through His Son, Jesus Christ, He so beautifully demonstrated to us our capacity to make visible the invisible God. He showed us that each and every human being finds its fulfillment only in Christ; that Christ is the hidden threedimensional image that we are called to reveal to the world through our lives.  

This is the Catholic worldview. This is the purpose of creation. The world around us exists to give witness to the glory of God, which is brought to its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. In light of this, we can now see why so many people struggle with the Catholic Church. The secular world fails to see the hidden image of Christ. To the secular world, things are simply things. To the Catholic, things are more than just things. They are vessels (or instruments) that are meant to communicate something greater. In this way we can begin to see why the Catholic faith is so physical (or tangible). Bread becomes more than bread. Wine becomes more than wine. Water communicates more than mere physical washing. Oil communicates more than physical strength. The Catholic worldview is a sacramental worldview, where things are more than what they seem.

The same is true with human relationships. On account of Christ, human relationships become more than just social contracts. For example, to a Catholic, marriage is more than just a social relationship between adults, it is a covenant of love shared between a husband and a wife who have been called by God to give witness to the love shared between Christ and His Church through the love they share for one another. The love between Christ and His Church is the hidden three-dimensional image within the twodimensional love of the husband and wife. In this way, marriage exists to give visible witness to this invisible reality. This is why Catholics raise their voices when attempts to redefine marriage are made. By changing the pattern of shapes and colors, you change the hidden three-dimensional image within. By changing the definition of marriage, you destroy the hidden
image of Christ it communicates.

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