Preliminaries to a Spirituality of Work
In what way can human beings attain that Harmony whereby they become mediators between Heaven and Earth? In the mysterious language of symbols we can rediscover the sense of vocation that reflects Divine Activity. For God is, in reality the sole Artisan. All the traditional crafts are imitatings after God, Who unceasingly creates and maintains the world. And in the end it is this that constitutes to sole foundation for the dignity of work. That is why this book seeks to bring us to an interior knowledge of God as Divine Artisan.
It will be said that to speak of God’s occupations and skills can only be a literary metaphor: by its means an operation of the mind is transposed, something that in reality belongs only to the human order is projected into the Divine Order. The formulation perhaps has poetical but not ontological value. Nothing could be further from the mark. Undoubtedly, there is a transposition from the human to the divine order in the manifestations of symbolic thought we are about to describe, but only in the order of knowing, not of being. The mind crosses from the human to the divine occupation as it crosses from the sensible to the intelligible, which is not to say that the intelligible is not pre-existent in the sensible. In the same way, we discover that our activities, in their order, are a reflection of Divine Activity, in Its Order, and realize that our activities exist in the Divine Order, but in a different mode, which is properly the principial, or, if preferred, the archetypal, if this latter term be understood in its traditional and Platonic sense, that is to say, as designating a thing existing in God as idea, and not after the manner of modern psychologists, who reduce archetypes to expressions of a purely psychological and human, nay collective and infra-human, order.To use an ancient image, this existence in principial mode can be compared to radii that are already integrally present in the center of the circle.
But just as there is this unique point at the center of the circle where all the straight lines extending from it are still undivided, so, in God, he who has been judged worthy to arrive at this point knows all the ideas of created beings with a knowledge that is both simple and without concepts. In the last resort, the reference to the divine archetype is, moreover, founded upon the following statement of Christ: ‘My Father has never ceased working, and I too must be at work’ (John 5:7). This continuous divine activity is Creation. It is symbolized in Genesis as an event that took place in primordial times, but in reality is a continuous activity. As Meister Eckhart said in one of his sermons, ‘God did not create the world 6,000 years ago, but creates it in this very moment,’ in this ‘indivisible now’ (atomon nyn), to use Aristotle’s expression. God, however, wished to share this continuous activity with His creatures; to the heavenly, angelic Powers, He apportioned the stars that revolve in cosmic space, and to man, the earth, represented in the Biblical account as a garden. ‘And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it’ (Gen. 2:15). Agricultural work, the foremost occupation, since it is indispensable to human life, is here taken for work as such: it is emblematic of work in itself and, more generally, of Action in all its forms. To practice a trade is to act upon the world with a view to transforming it; it is, consequently, to extend God’s work. The latter is the model and synthesis of all occupations. In reality, God is the only Artisan: according to the Scholastic adage Unus artifex est Deus. All occupations imitate God, Who is ceaselessly at work, for He ceaselessly creates the world. And this, in the final analysis, is the sole basis of their dignity.
Table of Contents
Introduction—The Divine Scribe—Christ the Physician—The Warrior God—The Divine Potter—God the Weaver—God the Architect and Mason—The 'Son of the Carpenter'—Pastor et Nauta—God the Fisherman and God the Hunter—The Celestial Gardener—The Master of the Harvest—The Master of the Vineyard—Conclusion: The Spirituality of Work and the Body Social