Many people are tempted to mess around with occultism in its various forms. Seances, tarot cards, crystal balls, Ouija boards and many other types of occultist hocus-pocus are much in demand. It’s a disturbing sign of the times. It’s a sign that our God-given human longing for the supernatural can easily be mischanneled into something unwholesome and dangerous.

During the season of Lent we try to re-sensitize our souls to the things of the Spirit. Those things are sometimes unusual, to say the least. The book of Exodus (3:1-6) records a puzzling episode which must have caused the experiencer to wonder again and again what on earth he had seen. The encounter that Moses had at the burning bush was no doubt ‘shaped’ by multiple retellings before it was actually written down in the inspired words we now have in the Bible. Something which came to be described as ‘the angel of the Lord’ appeared to Moses in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of a bush. Here was a strange incursion of the supernatural into everyday life. The book of Exodus is full of such strangeness.

For our benefit, the presence of God most often filters the apprehension of Himself through an angelic intermediary. Even that mediated presence should rightly inspire awe and wonder in us, a holy fear. ‘Fear’ not in the sense of terror but fear of the Lord; humble reverence in the veiled presence of Him Who dwells in unapproachable light beyond the purview of our senses, and Whose essence is beyond our ability even to imagine, let alone understand.

Our hunger for the supernatural is God-given. We are wired to yearn  for transcendence. That longing is meant to draw us onward through this world in preparation for what awaits us after our physical death. While still on our earthly pilgrimage we Catholics have a privileged access to the supernatural through the life of grace and the sacraments, above all through the most Blessed Sacrament of the altar, of which the burning bush is a striking icon.

Theologically and spiritually, the altar with its tabernacle is the burning heart and centre of every place of Catholic worship. In that burning centre the veiled but real presence of God is set before us. That place is holy ground. Our proper response is to get down on our knees and worship the Lord Who moves us to love Him even though we shall never fully understand Him.