“The problem of our time . . . originates in the loss of the inherently ‘symbolic’ dimension of the creaturely order of things and persons.”
The debate over secularism—over what it is and the sense in which it is a good or a bad thing—evidently hinges on the nature of the distinction between religion and the secular (God and the world, the Church and the world).
Presuming not at all to deal with the full range of issues evoked here, my proposal is that secularism in the “bad” sense, at least as found in Western (e.g, American) liberal patterns of thought and life, consists above all in a (false) abstraction from God in our first and most basic understanding of the world: secularism consists in an abstract notion of the cosmos—of its space, time, matter, motion, bodies, and persons.
Put negatively: our understanding of the cosmos becomes abstract in the objectionable sense insofar as it is inadequately integrated into what may be called the liturgical and indeed nuptial and Marian dimension of the mystery of being. Put positively: it is in their dynamic-destined integration into liturgy, in and through the nuptial love revealed in Mary, hence in the “symbolism” implied by these, that the cosmos—space and time and matter and motion and bodies and persons—realize their original and deepest meaning as such: that is, as secular.
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