Seeing Things Sacramentally
Researching the Benedict Option book, I’m up to my eyeballs in reading about medieval philosophy, nominalism, univocity, and all the rest. A reader interested in the Benedict Option writes to ask:
I’m invested in the nominalism+voluntarism-destroyed-everything narrative, but I find its easier to explain what went wrong 700 years ago than it is to make a constructive argument for the Reality of the Transcendentals today. You should of course pay attention to that. How can we be (say) Aristotelian, Thomist, NeoPlatonic in the 21st century?
That’s a great question, and one that I hope to answer by talking to ordinary people who are living intentionally sacramental lives. My broad answer comes from how I’ve done it, to the extent that I have: through practices that cultivate a sacramental consciousness — what Hans Boersma calls the “Platonic-Christian synthesis of the Great Tradition” that characterized Christian theology for its first 1,000 years. For me, that has meant regular attendance at the liturgy, of course, but also regular prayer — especially hesychastic prayer — and fasting. Praying with icons and reading Dante has been training my eye to see all things as icons: windows into the reality of God.
This is not something that happens overnight, not at all, and it’s not something that happens simply because you read something convincing and decide that sacramentalism makes sense. Our entire way of seeing and moving through the modern world has been conditioned by nominalism — and the more you go into the sacramental worldview, the more obvious this becomes.
I would like to put the question to the room, in a slightly different form than my correspondent: How can we live truly and fully sacramental lives in the 21st century? What practices lead us to see God everywhere present and filling all things, and to live according to that fact? This is a practical question, not one having to do with theory. Doing this in some form, I will argue in the book, necessary to the Benedict Option, because it gives us the best chance of anchoring ourselves against the disintegrating currents of modern culture.
(I only want people who offer real answers to comment. If you want to argue with the premise of the question, or to take potshots, don’t waste your time, because I’m not going to approve your remarks. I want this to be a conversation among readers who already accept that we need to live more sacramentally.)