The heart’s centre

I’m reading a wonderful little book by Mark Galli called Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy.

At one point Galli talks about how the liturgy helps us to know God—not an intellectual knowledge alone, not just a knowledge of the heart, but a knowledge that excites imagination. He quotes St Paul (1 Corinthians 2.11-12, here from NRSV):

For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.

He then says,

Oxford scholar Stratford Caldecott aptly called [the knowledge of God] sobria ebrietas (“drunken” sobriety)—both “ecstatic, rapturous” and at the same time “measured, ordered, dignified. It is an encounter with the Other which takes the heart out of itself and places it in another centre.”

In other words, this is the knowledge the Bible usually talks about, deeply personal, so deep it is mysterious, so personal that it manifests love.

This is a really evocative passage for me. Galli has nailed love here—it is the heart’s centre being placed in another, and their heart’s centre being placed in us. It applies to human love, and to the love God has for us and we return to God. The centre of our heart is placed in God, and—amazingly!—the centre of God’s heart, the Spirit, is placed in us.

Drunken sobriety, indeed.

 

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