Looking for God

Apr 26th, 2007 | By | Category: Spirituality

One English writer used to joke that he found in the Church of Ireland the presence of the Real Absence; his jibe was directed against our very Protestant understanding of the Holy Communion service, but there are many other moments when the sense of the transcendent is mostly absent.

Since four o’clock my time has been absorbed by procuring ink and paper for the printing of the parish magazine; meeting with a builder about the siting of the water main for our new Rectory; and attending a parish meeting on the prevention of child abuse. Each activity was important, each was necessary in keeping the parish functioning, but no-one would pretend that there was much chance of encountering the transcendent God in such everyday moments.

Searching for some inspiration this evening, I found this passage from Monica Furlong’s Travelling In:

“During the two years just before and after I was twenty, I had two experiences which led to religious conversion. The first occurred when I was waiting at a bus stop on a wet afternoon. It was opposite the Odeon cinema, outside the station, and I was surrounded by people, shops, cars. A friend was with me. All of a sudden, for no apparent reason, everything looked different. Everything I could see shone, vibrated, throbbed with joy and with meaning. I knew that it had done this all along, and would go on doing it, but that usually I couldn’t see it. It was all over in a minute or two. I climbed on to the bus, saying nothing to my friend – it seemed impossible to explain – and sat stunned with astonishment and happiness.

The second experience occurred some months later. I left my office at lunch-time, stopped at a small Greek cafe in Fleet Street to buy some rolls and fruit, and walked up Chancery Lane. It was an August day, quite warm but cloudy, with the sun glar­ingly, painfully bright, behind the clouds. I had a strong sense that something was about to happen. I sat on a seat in the garden of Lincoln‘s Inn waiting for whatever it was to occur. The sun behind the clouds grew brighter and brighter, the clouds assumed a shape which fascinated me, and between one moment and the next, although no word had been uttered, I felt myself spoken to. I was aware of being regarded by love, of being wholly accepted, accused, forgiven all at once. The joy of it was the greatest I had ever known in my life. I felt I had been born for this moment and had marked time till it occurred.

Maybe Monica Furlong would have sensed God present in walking along the line of a water main, maybe the problem is not God’s absence, but my failure to see him.

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