The Catholic imagination is sacramental. That is, the Catholic is poised to see the supernatural working through the natural. The world is shot through with God’s grace and every simple moment is an occasion of his presence.
I give you Neruda’s socks:
“Ode to My Socks” by Pablo Neruda
(translated by Robert Bly)
Mara Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
I slipped my feet into them
as if they were two cases
knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin,
my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.
They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.
Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere as schoolboys
as learned men collect
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.
The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.
In this case, Neruda understands that the love and attention of the knitter’s hands grant a dignity to his humble, unhandsome feet. He could have made a shrine to the socks but understood that they were only good when they served their intended purpose. They are good not in themselves but in their being spent, given up, sacrificed . Even something so simple as a sock is a touch of heaven and is an instance of divine beauty granting beauty.
This visitation of the natural by the supernatural is an extension of the incarnational principle first manifest at Bethlehem whose feast we eagerly await in this season of Advent.