One of the gifts of the pandemic is that I have experienced the beauty and wonder of creation in totally new ways. As a Christian, I believe as Genesis teaches us, that creation is good. Yet, as a Celtic Christian, I also see creation as sacred and holy. It is a theophany, that is, a manifestation of God. I believe that we should reverence creation just as we do the scriptures, Jesus, the cross, and the sacraments. These had been theological ideas but, in my life, they did not translate into any kind of spiritual practice.
That changed in March of 2020 when I found myself spending more time outdoors. Because of church closures, I found myself worshipping in creation. I began praying and meditating among the trees. I found a special place on Camano Island, Washington where I live. I named it “Madrone Chapel.”
There I had a pew beneath a Madrone tree cross overlooking the sea. The light shimmering through the trees was as beautiful as any stained glass window. Angels masquerading as birds were my choir. A baptismal font disguised as a stream made me feel born anew. In the spring of 2020, I found Madrone Chapel to be a refuge inviting me to hope amidst the pandemic’s masking and closure of so much I knew and loved.
One day, I had my eyes closed in meditation when I heard a sound of rushing air and water. I opened my eyes. There was a gray whale spouting right below me. Talk about beauty and wonder! I spoke to the whale, “You are beautiful. Will you show me your fluke?” And a few seconds later it did! Then the whale began swimming south. The upper trail I was on also ran south, exactly parallel to the swimming whale. For twenty minutes, I went whale walking!
It was a moment of profound beauty and wonder. I experienced it as God and creation calling me to sink beneath the lockdown of the ravaging storyline which in my mind detailed everything that was wrong with the world and me. Instead, I paused and rejoiced that I breathe the same air as that magnificent whale. I heard the hymn of creation sing the words of the mystic Julian of Norwich, “All is well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.”
Besides worshipping in nature, I now turn to creation for spiritual healing. A few months ago, I had a rift in a personal relationship. I had been hurt by this person and yet I knew that the relationship could not be healed until I released my anger.
I headed to a rocky beach to conduct a ritual of letting go. I decided to look for the ugliest rock on the beach that would symbolize the ugliness I had been experiencing. My plan was to throw it into the sea as a gesture of release. It took me a long time to find what looked like the perfect ugly rock. At last, I found one!
As I looked at it intently, the rock was suddenly transformed in my hand. It was no longer ugly. I became aware of just how incredibly beautiful this one small piece of creation is! I put it down and thought, “I must a find a really complex rock to represent my dilemma here.” The more I looked at the surrounding landscape, the more beautiful it all became.
I had a distinct feeling of merging and becoming one with every rock. In the end, I closed my eyes and picked up one rock and gently returned it to the water. It was as if creation had heard my confession and the thoughts of my heart had been cleansed by God. I found myself in a state of peace, love and joy. Forgiveness flooded my heart and I felt compassion for the person who had wounded me.
I experienced myself as a part of creation and not apart from creation. To use the words of contemplative monk and priest, Thomas Merton, I had a “keen awareness of the inter-dependence of all living things which are all part of one another and involved in one another.” I was humbled to experience that I was also included in all living things.
God’s creation with its gifts of beauty and wonder gives me a way to move forward into this new year with joy and hope. I will continue to incorporate Celtic spirituality and my love of creation into my faith practices and also into more aspects of my life. Yes, that is something I can do.
But God does more! The Creator continues to live and love, moving in and through creation, reaching out to us here and now. God embraces us through creation. The more time I have spent simply being in God’s magnificent creation; the more I am feeling healed, that is, made whole. And such wholeness has helped me to simplify my lifestyle and make more sustainable choices. I hope even these small changes will contribute to the healing of our beloved Earth.
A friend of mine named Kristopher Lindquist wrote a chant with these words below. It is one of my prayers of gratitude and hope. May it serve as an invitation to you to discover God in and through the beauty and wonder of Creation.
“Through Creation, God is singing,
through Creation, dancing with joy.
God delights in all things.
God delights in All That Is.
God delights in us.”
“You can infuse your life with joy, even right in the middle of winter when you need it most…”
Join Christine Aroney-Sine TONIGHT for a series of five inspiring conversations, based on her book, The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices for Delighting in God.*
- January 19 – The Awe of Wonder (Introduction)
- January 26 – Wonder & Trauma
- February 2 – Play!
- February 9 – Reminiscing
- February 16 – The Joy of Gratitude
* We will mail you the book with your $10 registration. If you already have the book, the series is free.