The Book of Nature
“Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small.
We haven’t time, and to see takes time.”
In the Celtic spiritual tradition, it is said there are two great books of revelation, nature and scripture. By revelation we mean ways in which God reveals Godself to us.
For the Celts there was a profound sense of coming into God’s presence through the immanence, or the down-to-earthness of God, as opposed to the transcendence, or God above us. This has led some to level a charge of pantheism at the Celts, that they were worshipping many Gods, making a God out of nature. Ian Bradley, a Celtic scholar, however, says this: “We are not in the world of pantheism here but in the much more subtle and suggestive realm of panentheism – the sense that God is to be found both within creation and outside it. There is no blurring of the distinction between Creator and created, no worship of nature for its own sake, but rather a wonderful sense that the whole cosmos is a theophany – a marvellous revelation of the goodness and wonder and creativity of God.’” (from The Celtic Way by Ian Bradley)
In August we held a retreat at the Bield that focused on the Book of Nature. In a sense we invited nature to be our spiritual director for the day, spending time contemplatively being present to the wonder and beauty of nature and listening to how God might be revealing Godself to us through it. One of the things we did was to spend one hour sitting in nature (well, maybe slightly less given the pouring rain!) and observing one thing that caught our attention. We then spent time journalling and reflecting on how this experience of quietly focusing on one part of nature was speaking to our yearnings, desires or hopes, or to our fears, hesitations, or apprehensions. Or how this time noticing nature might be illuminating the divine spark within us. It was truly amazing to hear the sharing of the group and to be in awe of how something as simple as observing an ant could reveal profound insights about faith and life. Perhaps it’s something you might like to try!
“At a certain point you say
to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world,
now I am ready.
Now I will stop and be wholly attentive.
You empty yourself and wait, listening…”