George MacDonald’s Sacramental Vision

The following is taken from the chapter on George MacDonald in my book Saints and Scoundrels.

george-macdonaldAt a time when Darwinism was removing the wonder and magic from the world, reducing people to animals and describing the universe as a giant impersonal machine, MacDonald bequeathed to us an opposite vision. His was a universe filled with enchantment, saturated in wonder and infused with grace. It was a sacramental vision that drew heavily on the Middle Ages, especially the medieval notion that the external things surrounding us are outward signs of inward spiritual graces. As MacDonald expressed it in The Miracles of our Lord, “With his divine alchemy, [God] turns not only water into wine, but common things into radiant mysteries, yea, every meal into a Eucharist, and the jaws of death into an outgoing gate.”

His novels conveyed this sacramental vision. Although they may technically fall under the category of “realistic fiction”, there was always something fantastic about them. The literary critic Marion Lochhead has compared them to Hans Anderson’s fairy tales in possessing “the gift of turning homeliness into beauty.” He enables us to see the world afresh, to perceive, as it were, the invisible halo on every bird and beast.

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