Many years ago, as a student, I worked at a play scheme for children in Central London during the summer holidays. One day, a social worker brought to us a young lad who had been locked away in a cupboard by his parents. We took him on an outing into the countryside with the other children. I still remember his reaction as he was led through the fields. He kept on stopping and looking, listening, in wonder at the sights and sounds of everything that surrounded him. For me it was a perfect example of having a sense of wonder.
Later I came across a phrase that was frequently used the talking about the spirituality of St Ignatius. Walter Burghart S.J. used it. “A long loving look at the real.” It is a way of contemplation. Children seem to have this sense of wonder at what surrounds them, the environment in which they live. We so often forget to look up at the sky, look around us and just take in all that surrounds us. To living the present moment and be aware of all that God has given us.
This is how Walter Burghart talks about it. “Now turn to contemplation. What is it? Oh, not the popular sense of “contemplate,” which is instantly associated with “navel.” Contemplation in its profound sense is just as real as your navel but far more exciting. The contemplative Carmelite William McNamara once called it “a pure intuition of being, born of love. It is experiential awareness of reality and a way of entering into immediate communion with reality.” And what is reality? “People, trees, lakes, mountains. You can study things, but unless you enter into this intuitive communion with them, you can only know about them, you don’t know them. To take a long loving look at something –a child, a glass of wine, a beautiful meal-this is a natural act of contemplation, of loving admiration.” The problem? “All the way through school we are taught to abstract; we are not taught loving awareness.”
So today let us cultivate this sense of loving awareness, this sense of wonder.