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Wonder-Filled Saints

by Dr. Tom NealSeptember 11, 2018

One of my favorite quotes in all literature:

In wonder all philosophy began: in wonder it ends….But the first wonder is the offspring of ignorance; the last is the parent of adoration.(Plato)

Wonder, that posture of trusting, yearning openness to the endless surprise of existence, the ceaseless fascination of beauty, the sleepless seduction of goodness, and the unending allure of truth, is the presupposition behind all learning—including that transcendent mode of learning that is born of faith in Jesus.

I recall an incident years ago when I gave a talk on the necessity of cultivating wonder in the life of faith, and argued that wonder, being a “declension” of the gift of holy fear, has to be begged for and received as a grace from God that heals our narrowness and opens us to see all things as flowing fresh from God’s “Eternal Innocence.” I built the talk around Abraham Joshua Heschel’s famous quote, “Never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and he gave it to me.”

An elderly man came up to me afterward with tear-reddened eyes and said: “You know, it was years and years ago when life beat out of me the wonder you talked about tonight; and with wonder went my faith in God and in the goodness of life. The gift I received tonight was a new hope that I could find wonder again, and so find faith again by asking for it.”

In a world plunged deep in dark and divisive cynicism, it is our wonder-filled saints that keep alive in the world the hope that God’s Eternal Innocence is not, in this falling world, forever slain by men. Rather it is still dared by those few who choose daily to embrace the gift of faith in the Innocent Heart of Jesus, wounded by malice yet burning with ardent love, that births in them afresh adoring, yearning, trusting wonder. It’s the prime contagion of the communion of saints in whose number I hope to be.

“And a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)

About the Author

Dr. Tom Neal

Dr. Tom Neal

Dr. Tom Neal presently serves as Academic Dean and Professor of Spiritual Theology at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans...

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