An idea becomes truly comprehensible, Leo Tolstoy once wrote, only when it gives us the feeling that we know it already, by heart, and were simply recalling it. This was how he felt about the amazing story of Incarnation. It all seemed so familiar. It seemed that I had known it all long ago, and that I had only forgotten it. Sometimes we feel that way too. When we read or hear these reflections about the divine presence within all of us, about the holiness of our hearts, about the wonder of our bodies, it is not completely new. We have always carried that wisdom within us. We simply need to read and hear it, to be reminded of it.
And now, perhaps more than ever before, we desperately need to hear it and read it again and again. People are giving up on the mainstream churches in huge numbers for reasons too obvious to mention. They find contemporary Christianity irrelevant to their hopes, fears, creative longing and often despairing struggles. We must return to the true meaning of the Incarnation.
The purpose of these reflections is to reveal the dearest freshness deep down things, to disclose the secret of turning your life around, and of living more freely and more abundantly. Is that all there is? reveals the loving secret that is always offered as pure gift when we least expect it. But usually we have to dig persistently through the rubble of our lives before the beautiful gold surrenders itself. It is then that everything changes. We recover our lost happiness, our lost laughter. We begin to really live again. And so do those around us.
Daniel O’Leary, a priest of the Diocese of Leeds, is an author and speaker. As curate and parish priest, he has worked in parishes for almost thirty years. For another twenty he taught theology and religious education at St Mary’s University College in London. He writes for The Tablet and The Furrow. The main aim of his retreats, books and talks is to teach what is called the ‘sacramental imagination’, the vision of God’s incarnate presence everywhere which transforms our lives. Yet Daniel himself still struggles to be a free and authentic human being!