Some students training to be teachers once went on a visit to a cathedral in order to learn what a school visit might be like. They went in, looked around, and the Education Officer who was acting as guide, stopped them and said, “You’re all looking in the wrong direction!” When children come into a space like a cathedral, they look up. Little ones stand agog, wondering. When was the last time that you were amazed?
One of the characteristics of an encounter with God in the Bible is amazement, wonder, fear and trembling. When God acts, people are silenced. They marvel at what he has done, yes, but also, and perhaps more particularly, they marvel at his nearness. That holy amazement is, as we know, a gift of the Spirit of God. It left the Apostles speechless at the Ascension and that same fear of the Lord seized them at Pentecost — they were amazed and astonished as the Love of God was poured into their hearts.
To children, amazement comes easily, especially if it concerns something new. Is it not true that we don’t always hold on to that skill? Idle scrolling of the smartphone is conducive neither to amazement nor life-enhancing wonder. That gift of holy wonder, of Fear of the Lord, is given to us for a purpose. It enables us not only to realise how much we depend on God but also to see and renew in our hearts the realisation of the wonders he works in us day after day. The Lord is making all things new within us. By the gift of his Spirit, by the grace of the sacraments, by our life of prayer and friendship with him, he shapes us anew, and often we just have to get out of the way and allow him to do it.
“The Spirit of Truth,” our Lord tells us, “will lead us into all truth,” and we know that the fullness of truth is Christ himself, nothing else. The Holy Spirit who was given to us at our baptism, the fullness of whose gifts we receive in Confirmation, who comes to us each time we pray to him for guidance and help, this same Spirit comes to shape us, to mould us after the pattern of Christ himself.
The thing that those children were quick to marvel at in that great Cathedral was beauty. If you and I are to grow in the spiritual life, we too have to learn to become children again. When the Holy Spirit touches us we are beautified by him, we are enriched. If we can allow ourselves by simple acts of trust to be more open to the wonders the Spirit wants to do within us, if we can respond to that by a generous charity and fidelity, we become sanctified and are made truly children, the adopted children of God, no matter what age we are.