Take the largest part of that truth first. God makes wine. For all its difficulties, there is no way around the doctrine of creation. But notice the tense: He makes; not made. He did not create once upon a time, only to find himself saddled now with the unavoidable and embarrassing result of that first rash decision. That is only to welsh on the idea of an unnecessary world, to make creation a self-perpetuating pool game which is contingent only at the start–which needs only the first push on the cue ball to keep it going forever. It will not do: The world is more unnecessary than that. It is unnecessary now; it cries in this moment for a cause to hold it in being.
Do you see what that means? In a general way, we concede that God made the world out of joy: He didn’t need it; He just thought it was a good thing. But if you confine His activity in creation to the beginning only, you lose most of the joy in the subsequent shuffle of history. Sure, it was good back then, you say, but since then, we’ve been eating leftovers. How much better a world it becomes when you see Him creating at all times and at every time; when you see that the preserving of the old in being is just as much creation as the bringing of the new out of nothing. Each thing, at every moment, becomes the delight of His hand, the apple of His eye. The bloom of yeast lies upon the grape skins year after year because He likes it; C6H12O6 = 2C2H5OH + 2CO2 is a dependable process because, every September, He says, That was nice; do it again.
Let us pause and drink to that.
To a radically, perpetually unnecessary world; to the restoration of astonishment to the heart and mystery to the mind; to wine, because it is a gift we never expected; to mushroom and artichoke, for they are incredible legacies; to improbable acids and high alcohols, since we would hardly have thought of them ourselves; and to all being, because it is superfluous: to the hairs on Harry’s ear, and the seven hundred and sixty-eighth cell from the upper attachment of the right gluteus maximus in the last girl on the chorus line. Prosit, Dear Hearts. Cheers, Men and Brethren. We are free: nothing is needful, everything is for joy. Let the bookkeepers struggle with their balance sheets; it is the tippler who sees the untapped Hand. God is eccentric; He has loves, not reasons. Salute!
The secular is not the sacred. Creation exists in its own right, is no parable, no front, no Punch and Judy show in which God plays all the parts, but a vast and raucous meeting where each thing acts out its nature, shouts I am I, as if no other thing had being. The world exists, not for what it means but for what it is. The purpose of mushrooms is to be mushrooms; wine is order to wine: Things are precious before they are contributory. It is false piety that walks through creation looking only for lessons which can be applied somewhere else. To be sure, God remains the greatest good, but, for all that, the world is still good in itself. Indeed, since He does not need it, its whole reason for being must lie in its own goodness; He has no use for it; only delight.
Just think what that means. We were not made in God’s image for nothing. The child’s preference for sweets over spinach, mankind’s universal love of the toothsome rather than the nutritious is the mark of our greatness, the proof that we love the secular as He does–for its secularity. We have eyes which see what He sees, lips which praise what He praises, and mouths which relish things, because He first pronounced them tov. The world is no disposable ladder to heaven. Earth is not convenient, it is good; it is, by God’s design, our lawful love.
Another toast then.
To Da Vinci’s notebooks; to Einstein’s preoccupations; to Mozart and to Bach, and to the child who hears a canon for the first time in ‘Frere Jacques‘; to the singularities of chalk and cheese and to the delectability of all things, visible and invisible; l’chaim because it is good; to health, for no reason but itself; to men because they are men, to women without explanation, and to the good company of every secular thing in saecula saeculorum. Toast them with their own watchword: Here’s how!