He loved cherry sunsets growing heavy on the branches of the evening; He loved bud coloured dawns opening from the east’s earth.
He loved the sea, green in its happiness, seeking the shore;
He loved to see it languishing back stonily from its crest to its groove.
He loved the character of birds, the flock that trusted in His Father; He loved lambs, the most skilfully fashioned: the lambs,
the most innocent in their nature.
He loved the beasts of the borders: the ones that dwelt in the wild; He loved their sure dependence on that which the wilderness provided.
He loved wheat shivering as it became golden and heavy headed with nourishment; He loved the fortressed mountain country, the desolation where peace grew.
He loved the earth, loved it as a lover, because it is God’s earth;
He loved it, because it was created by His Father from nothingness to be Life’s temple.
‘Cread Crist’, Donald Evans, (trans. Cynthia and Saunders Davies)
The incarnate Christ dwells in me, so I am part of an interrelated community. This makes me whole because I can see face to face, recognise the features of Christ in the person before me.
The incarnate Christ dwells in me, so I am part of an interconnected creation. This makes me whole because I can see God in the book of nature, and realise I am not separate, nor alone.
The incarnate Christ at the heart of the natural world was a given in the daily lives of Celtic Christians, as this simple prayer attributed to St Colmcille (sixth century Irish monk, founder of the Abbey on Iona) attests:
Bless to me the sky that is above me.
Bless to me the ground that is beneath me.
Bless to me the friends who are around me.
Bless to me the love of the three,
deep within me and encircling me.
Being immersed in nature is a profound experience for me, and is akin to what the Japanese call Shinrin-Yoku, ‘forest bathing’. I am excited by the relatively recent expanded scientific exploration of the mitochondrial web that not only connects trees into communities, and creates a chain of being for other creatures to flourish, but affects how humans might live, at vast distances from anything they might recognise as a forest.
These are all part of the mysterious interconnections of God which make up so much of my knowing darkly. To see a vision of the whole of God, I can watch a 360degree video of English woods, (places where my wheelchair could never take me) from Forestry England on YouTube. Instead I saw a vision of the whole of God by looking at a bee exploring the heart of a sunflower.
As Dermot A. Lane notes:
The primary emphasis is that everything within the community of creation is theocentric in different ways and to varying degrees, that is, creation comes from God, is a gift from God, and returns to God in the fullness of time. This theocentric feature refers to the whole of creation, and not just human beings. All of creation is centred in God, through the indwelling of the spirit of God. This shifts the centre of gravity within creation from humans as the exclusive holders of the imago Dei. All of creation, and not just humans, is in the image of God.
(from Theology and Ecology in Dialogue: The Wisdom of Laudato Si, Dermot A. Lane (129))
In An Altar in the World Barbara Brown Taylor reminds me that too much cleanliness is not next to godliness. Our modern preoccupation with anti-bacterial cleansing of our homes (dominant even in pre-COVID19 times) has created an imbalance in the the millions of microbes in our bodies. What’s the antidote? Get out there and play in the dirt! Such creative play might help me reappreciate my interconnectedness with all living things. Creative play might help me be be thankful for their dying and reintegrating, might help me recommit me to knowing more of my ‘kinship with the divine’.
A child’s mud pies can be their prayer.
In fact, the trees are murmuring under your feet,
a buried empathy; you tread it.
High over your head,
the canopy sieves light; a conversation
you lip-read. The forest
keeps different time;
slow hours as long as your life,
so you feel human.
So you feel more human; persuaded what you are
by wordless breath of wood, reason in resin.
You might name them-
oak, ash, holly, beech, elm-
but the giants are silence alive, superior,
and now you are all instinct;
swinging the small lamp of your heart
as you venture their world:
the green, shadowy, garlic air
your ancestors breathed.
Ah, you thought love human
till you lost yourself in the forest,
but it is more strange.
These grave and patient saints
who pray and pray
and suffer your little embrace.
Carol Ann Duffy
imago Dei. (iPhone image)