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Center for Action and Contemplation

Exploring the Soul of All Things with Contemplative Seeing

Friday, November 11, 2016

Nature: Week 1

The Soul of All Things
Friday, November 11, 2016

Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things.
Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature—even a caterpillar—
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.
—Meister Eckhart [1]

Creation itself is the first and primary face of God. The world itself is the universal religion that precedes all organized religions. Do you really think that God would not have made God’s Self available to the Stone Age people and all historical peoples who were created in “the image and likeness of God,” just like all of us? We monotheists should have been the first to recognize this because we believe in “one God who created all things!”

Or was God just waiting for the Catholics and Evangelicals to come along? Unfortunately, when we Catholics came, we loved to build fancy churches, without any encouragement from Jesus, I might add; and we went quickly inside them, disconnecting our minds and hearts from the natural world, probably because the natural world seemed wild and dangerous to us. Our very word profane comes from pro, meaning “in front of,” and fanum, meaning “temple.” We thought we lived “outside the temple.” Without a nature-based spirituality, it was a profane universe, bereft of Spirit, so we had to keep building shrines and churches to capture and hold our now domesticated and tamed God. Soon we did not know where to look for the divine. We became like fish in a huge ocean looking for water, and often arguing about who owned the water!

Again, note that I’m not saying God is all things (pantheism), but that each living thing reveals some aspect of God’s presence; God is both greater than the whole of our universe, and as Creator interpenetrates all created things (panentheism).  No exceptions. The Judeo-Christian conviction about this was so total, that the ancient myths even had Lucifer created by God (Isaiah 14:12-15) and Satan in the divine council (Job 1:6-12).

St. Francis is the earliest recorded Christian to grant animals and objects subjectivity, mutuality, even naming them as sister and brother. He could talk and listen to them. Few Christians are trained to see all created things in this way, subject to subject. Yet it is the heart of all contemplative seeing. We were told animals didn’t have souls. I fully disagree.

Love is at the core of all beings. When you know this, as Thomas Berry says, the world becomes “a communion of subjects more than a collection of objects,” [2] to state it quite perfectly and profoundly.

When you love something, you grant it soul, you see its soul, and you let its soul touch yours. You have to love something deeply to know its soul. Before the resonance of love, you are largely blind to a thing’s meaning, value, and its power to literally save you. In fact, until you can appreciate and even delight in the ecstatic wag of a dog’s tail and other such ubiquitous signals, I doubt if you have discovered your own soul.

Gateway to Silence:
Brother Sun, Sister Moon, help me see God in all things.

[1] Earth Prayers: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations from Around the World, eds. Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon (HarperOne: 1991), 251.
[2] Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe (New York: Columbia University Press), 86.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, A New Cosmology: Nature as the First Bible, disc 2 (CAC: 2009), CD, MP3 download.

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