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Nature Reflects God’s Goodness

Nature: Week 2

Nature Reflects God’s Goodness
Wednesday, November 16, 2016

God brought things into being in order that his [sic] goodness might be communicated to creatures, and be represented by them; and because his goodness could not be adequately represented by one creature alone, he produced many and diverse creatures, that what was wanting to one in the representation of the divine goodness might be supplied by another. For goodness, which in God is simple and uniform, in creatures is manifold and divided. —Thomas Aquinas [1]

Nature itself is the primary Bible. As Paul says in Romans 1:20, “What can be known about God is perfectly plain, for God has made it plain. Ever since God created the world, God’s everlasting power and deity is there for the mind to see in all the things that God has created.” The world itself is the primary locus of the sacred, and actually provides all the metaphors that the soul needs for its growth.

If you scale chronological history down to the span of one year, with the Big Bang on January 1, then our species, Homo sapiens, doesn’t appear until 11:59 PM on December 31. That means our written Bible and the church appeared in the last nanosecond of December 31. I can’t believe that God had nothing to say until the last nanosecond. Rather, as both Paul and Thomas Aquinas say, God has been revealing God’s love, goodness, and beauty since the very beginning through the natural world of creation. “God looked at everything God had made, and found it very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Acknowledging the intrinsic value and beauty of creation, elements, plants, and animals is a major paradigm shift for most Western and cultural Christians. In fact, we have often dismissed it as animism or paganism. We limited God’s love and salvation to our own human species, and even then we did not have enough love to go around for all of humanity! God ended up looking quite miserly and inept, to be honest.

Listen instead to the Book of Wisdom:

How dull are all people who, from the things-that-are, have not been able to discover God-Who-Is, or by studying the good works have failed to recognize the Artist. . . . Through the grandeur and beauty of the creatures we may, by analogy, contemplate their Author. [2]

All you have to do today is walk outside and gaze at one leaf, long and lovingly, until you know, really know, that this leaf is a participation in the eternal being of God. It’s enough to create ecstasy. The seeming value or dignity of an object doesn’t matter; it is the dignity of your relationship to the object that matters, that transforms object to subject, and allows you to meet things center to center or subject to subject, inner dignity to inner dignity. For a true contemplative, a gratuitously falling green leaf will awaken awe and wonder just as much as a golden tabernacle in a cathedral.

Gateway to Silence:
Praised be You, my Lord, through all your creatures. —Francis of Assisi

References:
[1] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I, 47, 1.
[2] Wisdom 13:1, 5, New Jerusalem Bible; paraphrase, R. Rohr.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, A New Cosmology: Nature as the First Bible, disc 1 (CAC: 2009), CD, MP3 download; and
Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 170.

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