all led by God

Philo was following exactly the same line of thought when, writing the Life of Moses, he observed, “The care needed in guarding flocks is a preparation for kingship.”

…The task of the shepherd is so important that it is rightly attributed not only to kings, sages, and souls of perfect purity, but even to the sovereign God. …Like a flock, the earth, the water, the air, the fire, all the plants also, all the beings found there, both mortal and divine, the nature of heaven too, the revolutions of the sun and moon, and more, the variations and harmonious movements of all the stars, are all led by God, shepherd and king, according to Justice and the Law.

From Divine Craftsmanship by Jean Hani (66), and quoting Philo from De vita Moysis and De agricultura.

ordered to make an ark

From Divine Craftsmanship by Jean Hani:

But every word of Scripture, beyond its obvious sense, conceals a deeper one, for, being the word of God, it necessarily has a universal bearing. …Besides, if even in the life of an ordinary person nothing happens by chance, then even more so must everything in the life of Christ have a profound reason for being manifested. [55-56]

…The formulation is necessarily accomplished in the Holy Scriptures by images and symbols. And these latter are not just any image or symbol; they are sacred symbols and images which can, and even, in a certain way, must be the same in Christianity and other religions. [57]

…In every tradition there exists a cosmic Tree, symbolizing the whole of Creation considered as a living organism and structured according to the two axes, the vertical and the horizontal, embodied in the trunk and the branches. The shape of the tree is not other than the Cross.  …The cross is the essential figure of all carpentry work and of all architecture, in that it expresses the co-ordinates of space. The wood of the cross is the cosmic tree from which the Divine Carpenter makes the world, and the tree of the cross as such is the spiritual blueprint according to which Jesus the Carpenter reconstructs the world, or builds the new world.

This new world is the Church, often compared to a ship the biblical ‘type’ of which is the Ark, the work of carpenter Noah. Now Noah is a figure of Christ, as the Ark is a figure of the Church. This is widely developed in Patristic literature. According to Origen, ‘Our Lord is our Noah, whom the Father at the end of time has ordered to make an ark.’ Moreover, he relates the three dimensions of the Ark—the length, the breadth, and the height—to those of the Cross suggested by the famous passage from the Epistle to the Ephesians (3:18). [58]

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19)

under the direction of the Great Architect

From Divine Craftsmanship by Jean Hani (compare to this poem):

To say that God is the only architect can be understood in a yet more precise fashion in the case of the construction of the temple. Here, God is more directly the architect of His own abode. …The earthly temple is realized according to a heavenly archetype communicated to men through the intermediary of a prophet or other sacred figure. (46-47)

…The Heavenly Jerusalem, which descends from God, and the shape and dimensions of which were also taught to St John by an angel, is the model of the Christian temple, as is amply proved by the layout of the later, and affirmed by its ritual consecration. (47)

…Now this archetypal building, by its very nature, reproduces the architecture of the universe in such a way that its base corresponds to the earth, its intermediate space to the air, and its roof to the heavenly vault.

From this it follows that the house is a symbol of the universe, which, in a way, is the primordial House of Man; and, as a result, the building of a house will also reproduce or imitate the creation of the world. (48)

…The text from Job evokes the splendor of the original world, spoilt by sin. But God decided to rebuild it. And this new world in the making is the Church, both the earthly and heavenly. The Church is the Holy City, ‘the masterpiece’ of the divine Artisan. ‘It is God who builds Jerusalem’ (Psalm 46). (49)

…The unfolding of this story appears as the spiritual construction of a new world, the New Jerusalem, which under the direction of the Great Architect, is the work of all. It unfolds in three phases. In the first, Christ comes to earth to lay the first or foundation stone, upon this foundation, of which Simon Peter is the visible substitute, the Temple is built with living stones, which are the believers. Finally, in the third phase, the building is completed with the placing of the keystone of the vault, which is again Christ, the Beginning and End, Alpha and Omega. Then the whole building undergoes a glorious transmutation, the stones becoming precious and shining in the Divine Light. At this point, the Heavenly City appears in all its splendor…. (54)

at its heart a collision and a contradiction

From Divine Craftsmanship by Jean Hani (43-44):

Like that of potter, the act of the weaver is well suited to recall the Primordial Act creating the world, while the cloth calls to mind creation itself.

Cloth … is defined by its warp and woof. The threads of the warp are fixed and straight, thereby symbolizing the fixed elements, the principless and laws of the world, being. The threads of the woof are mobile and entwined, and thus clearly represent the variable and contigent element, the event, the individual, becoming. ALso, it will be noticed that the fundamental structure of cloth, constituted by a warp and woof crossing each other perpendicularly, reproduces the form of the cross. In the latter, the vertical axis is, as it were, linking the earth to heaven, wheras the horizontal branch is, rather, terrestrial, symbolizing the extension of the world and beings. … Their intersection determines the relations of the being in question with the cosmic milieu surrounding it. For example, the individual nature of man is the meeting of these two threads.

…The weaver is initially faced with a pile of loose threads, as the potter is with a heap of clay. …The human artisan then separates the threads, and places them one by one in order, each according to where it will fit into the composition of the cloth, just as the potter shapes his clay and imprints upon it the form of the pot.

This reference by Hani to the form of the cross (and to the meeting point at its heart) brings to mind this passage from G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy:

Buddhism is centripetal, but Christianity is centrifugal: it breaks out. For the circle is perfect and infinite in its nature; but it is fixed for ever in its size; it can never be larger or smaller. But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape. Because it has a paradox in its center it can grow without changing. The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.

the beauty and sanctity of the act of modeling

From Divine Craftsmanship by Jean Hani (33-37):

The author of Ecclesiasticus pauses a moment to watch the potter at work and gives us a graphic portrait of him, a sort of generic picture and a rather rare passage in sacred literature:

So doth the potter sitting at his work, turning the wheel about with his feet, who is always carefully set to his work, and maketh all his work by number. He fashioneth the clay with his arm, and boweth down his strength before his feet (Eccles. 38:32-33).

This care, this skill, this freedom of the human artist before his work, perfectly evokes the attitude of the Divine Artist vis-à-vis His creature.

All men are from the ground, and out of earth, from whence Adam was created. As the potter’s clay is in his hand, to fashion and order it all: all his ways are according to his ordering: so man is in the hand of him that made him, and he will render to him according to his judgment (ibid, 33:10, 13-14).

…G. Duhamel … was inspired by the spectacle of the famous potters of Jerba. We shall observe how he was to capture the beauty and sanctity of the act of modeling:

When the soft, stone-free roll is placed on the small wheel, Yamun spring lightly to his place. He murmurs the humble prayer sanctifying every need—In the name of God!—and the mystery begins. It is the beginning of the world…. Yamun imparts a circular movement to the apparatus, the movement of the stars, the principle of all genesis…. A earthen flower rises, rises and opens, although he scarcely seems to touch it. He follows its ascension, caresses it, and restrains it with awe. Like a god, Yamun concentrates on his work, and suddenly it is finished. With a single stroke of the wire, he detaches it from the socle. An offering! With careful hands, he holds it up. Is it real? It has risen so quickly from the original ground, that we might believe that simply dreaming it was enough to make it.

To conclude, we have a text from St Irenaeus … presented as a gloss of Ecclesiasticus…:

If then, thou art God’s workmanship, await the hand of thy Maker which creates everything in due time; in due time as far as thou art concerned, whose creation is being carried out. Offer to Him thy heart in a soft and tractable state, and preserve the form in which the Creator has fashioned thee, having moisture in thyself, lest, by becoming hardened, thou lose the impressions of His fingers. [St Irenaeus, Contra haer. IV, 39, 2.]

typology therefore needs to be deepened and explained

For when it is said, for example, that the brazen serpent was the ‘type’ of Christ, something is explained, to be sure, but not everything; in particular, it has not been said precisely why the serpent and not some other animal has been chosen to be this ‘type’, which is the essential point. Typology therefore needs to be deepened and explained by symbolism: the type needs to be considered not only in its biblical context, but also in its universal usage and meaning.

…We easily observe that the trees of the brazen serpent and the cross, each bearing the good serpent, are inverse images of the tree of the earthly Paradise, bearing the evil serpent.

From Divine Craftsmanship by Jean Hani (21).

crystallization in an earthly element

In principle, all languages are sacred because their constituent element, speech, or the word, is but an attenuated form of Primordial Speech, the Divine Word, which is the direct source of the creative act, as is shown by the following two quotations from Scripture: ‘God said: Let there be light!’ (Gen. 1:3). As it is written, because of language’s fundamental sanctity we shall have to account for ‘every idle word’; to utter an idle word is, in fact, somewhat equivalent to ‘taking the Name of God [as essential Word] in vain’. The sacredness of speech naturally extends to writing, which is the fixation of Sound–aerial by nature–and as if its crystallization in an earthly element. …This is why the handling of letters, or the art of writing, like the function of teaching, constitutes a skill directly related to the sacred, especially as literature itself is always originally sacred. The scribe, like the cleric, therefore belong by right to the priestly order, which directly represents the divine order on earth.

From Divine Craftsmanship by Jean Hani (5-6).

occupations and skills of God

A study of the ‘occupations and skills of God’ should normally begin with the two highest: the priesthood and kingship, except that these are no longer occupations properly so-called, but rather functions. These two functions are those of teacher and sacrificer, governor and judge, spiritual authority and temporal power, and are the immediate and most elevated reflections of the divine activity ad extra, and in particular of the Divine Word. As these functions go beyond the very notion of occupation, we shall postpone speaking of them until we come to explain the foundations of a sacred politics and sociology. We shall therefore concentrate in divinis on three occupation attached to and, to an extent, specifications of these two functions: the scribe, the physician and the warrior.

From Divine Craftsmanship by Jean Hani (5).

to extend God’s work

The moment divine anthropomorphism is admitted, every aspect of the human condition can in some way be assumed by God. Now anthropomorphism should certainly be admitted, since it comes to us from Scripture, that is to say, from God himself.

…’My Father has never ceased working, and I too must be at work’ (John 5:17). This continuous divine activity is Creation. …God, however, wished to share this continuous activity with His creatures; to the heavenly, angelic Powers, He apportioned the stars that revolve in cosmic space, and to man, the earth, represented in the Biblical account as a garden.

…To practice a trade is to act upon the world with a view to transforming it; it is, consequently, to extend God’s work. …All occupations imitate God, Who is ceaselessly at work, for He ceaselessly creates the world. And this, in the final analysis, is the sole basis of their dignity.

From Divine Craftsmanship by Jean Hani (2-4).

The Celestial Gardener

Table of Contents from Divine Craftmanship: Preliminaries to a Spirituality of Work by Jean Hani.

    The Divine Scribe
    Christ the Physician
    The Warrior God
    The Divine Potter
    God the Weaver
    God the Architect and Mason
    The ‘Son of the Carpenter’
    Pastor et Nauta
    God the Fisherman and God the Hunter
    The Celestial Gardener
    The Master of the Harvest
    The Master of the Vineyard
    Conclusion: The Spirituality of Work and the Body Social