Web of faith

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As a child, I loved slipping into the yard early on summer mornings, when dewy webs cascaded precariously about the damp garden. The tiny threads held large drops of water — seeming pearls when the light was just right. Only now can I appreciate the magnificence of such little things, after decades in the loving swirl of family chaos and an arduously slow maturation process upon my conversion.

Each web unfolds after the spider chooses a few stable points, and after creating a frame it spins converging lines which meet in its center. The outer structure is then strengthened with a series of connecting ties, wherein each thread does its part to make fast the net. 

The architecture of the web is easily compared to the life of faith, primarily reminding us that God must be at the center of our lives. The converging threads can be seen on a number of levels — one being myriad activities we engage in: job, family, neighbors, hobbies, exercise, and the like, whose variety is a key factor in our overall well-being. 

But they can just as easily be related to the larger world around us, for “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the works of His hands” (Ps 19). Every realm of study, every discipline ought to be couched in Divine truth, with God as its Author and End.

The wise Dominican, A. G. Sertillanges, reminds us that there are traces of the Creator everywhere, and we benefit greatly when “the order of the mind corresponds to the order of things.” It is not only our Sunday obligation that should reference this Divine order, but all our activities must reflect “the boundless Heart of Being.” Thus, whether our minds turn to biology or business, physics or psychology, all that we discover to be true will be related. He notes further, “Each truth is a fragment which does not stand alone but reveals connections on every side. Truth in itself is one, and the Truth is God.”

Often we are tempted to isolate and exploit each good thing for our own ends, but without a unifying principle we run the risk of missing the lesson in the humble web, which relies on its focal point. Whenever we ignore this principle, we wander from truth, and any pride of discovery or accomplishment bears within it the seeds of isolation and harm. 

Here we see the essence of the cross-threads that bind the converging lines. Communion provides the essential stability that allows the web to serve its purpose. While trapping insects certainly strains the fragile construction, this cannot be avoided, for the very point of the web is sustenance. But broken ties can be restored and gaps rewoven to renew the bonds — such is life in our fallen and redeemed world. The unity of any worthy construct depends on a fundamental interconnectedness that will incorporate the scars of battle.

The webs of my childhood are but a sliver of Creation, but ours is an incarnate faith whose truth echoes throughout Creation. The cross of Christ was drawn from a forest and firmly planted in everyday soil where faceless gravity combined with our all-too-human sin, pressing the Eternal Son to His death. The stunning fruit of that tree was life-giving grace and an opportunity to use a renewed vision for reveling in layered insights. Is there any wonder that even the least of God’s creatures will contribute practical insights into His marvelous plan?

As we shift our routines in the coming weeks to allow for relaxation and renewal, perhaps we can take time to ponder the simplest elements of nature and the humblest works of God. The psalmist tells us that “Day unto day pours forth speech; night unto night whispers knowledge,” thus each little joy bears the potential of being what Sertillanges calls “a Sacrament of the absolute” — all pearls for the taking in light of grace.

Anchor columnist Genevieve Kineke is the author of “The Authentic Catholic Woman.” She blogs at feminine-genius.typepad.com.


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