Meditation Monday – Read the Book of Nature.

by Christine Sine
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by Christine Sine

Nature speaks to me of God and of God’s purposes for me. Our interactions with nature are a wonderful contribution to our discernment process.

“Nature can be a contemplative companion. Instead of trying to control and manipulate the circumstances of your life and the world around you, you become more receptive to God in the world. You no longer ignore or grab nature as if it were a thing to dominate or own, but rather caress it; you no longer examine but admire it. In return, nature reveals itself transformed and renewed – no longer an impediment to prayer but a means of discernment; instead of an invulnerable shield, a veil permitting a preview of unknown horizons. (Discernment; Nouwen 56) 

Celtic Christians believed that creation was translucent and the glory of God shone through. A raindrop, a ripe strawberry, even a broken branch reflect something of who God is. My love of creation grows every year, and the beauty and the wonder of God’s world fills me with awe. Unfortunately, especially in the winter it is easy to let go of this focus. I still need to take time to look and listen and touch, to allow the glory of God reflected in creation to seep into my being.  I also need to allow it to guide my steps as I discern God’s direction for me. 

The great Irish teacher John Scotus Eriugena taught that God speaks to us through two books. One is the little book, he says, the book of scripture, physically little. The other is the big book, the book of creation, vast as the universe….

Eriugena invites us to listen to the two books in stereo, to listen to the strains of the human heart in scripture and to discern within them the sound of God and to listen to the murmurings and thunders of creation and to know within them the music of God’s Being. To listen to the one without the other is to only half listen. To listen to scripture without creation is to lose the cosmic vastness of the song. To listen to creation without scripture is to lose the personal intimacy of the voice… In the Celtic world, both texts are read in the company of Christ.

J Philip Newell in Christ of the Celts

There is within Celtic Christianity a deep appreciation of the natural world that grew out of the belief that all creation was birthed not out of a void of nothingness but out of the substance of God. Creation is translucent, the glory of God shines through it.

What difference would it make if we viewed everything as a translucent curtain through which the glory and wisdom of God shines? Grab your journal or a sheet of blank paper, a coloured crayon or pencil and a pen and head out into your closest green space, even if it is raining. Look around. What immediately catches your attention? Perhaps it is a rock of a certain shape, or a leaf of a special colour. It might even be a weed that you want to pull out! In what ways does the glory of God shine through it? Take a few moments to pay attention to the object and reflect on it in your journal. What aspect of God does it enhance for you? In what ways is God using it to nudge you in the right direction?


This view of the earth is so important. How we view God’s creation reflects our attitude towards it. If we believe this world is just a place to build our houses, drive our cars and dig for oil we will have a very utilitarian attitude towards it, with little respect or concern for its preservation. If we believe that it was created from the substance of God and reflects the glory of God, we see it as sacred, a beautiful tribute to the God who created it and loves it. It is to be reverenced (not worshipped) cared for and protected.

In Slow Seasons, Rosie Steer draws on experiences growing up in Scotland, and guides us through the old Celtic calendar. She encourages us to slow down and tune into nature’s rhythms to get back what is important. She comments

“Maybe it’s because the world is so complex and busy that we cling to goals and achievements to carve out a sense of control, to shape our own narratives…. Foraging a new path in the forest of life takes time and effort. You need to muster your commitment to new patterns of thinking, exposing yourself to new experiences – and yes, sometimes the attendant anxieties they bring – to create a healthier path that, over time will become well-trodden. (Slow Seasons by Rosie Steer., 11)

Paying attention to nature and listening to when it tells us to slow down, let go or change direction, is an important part of discernment. Through nature God is revealed,  gives us permission to slow down, and encourages us to take notice of all that is around us.

It is not only the Celts who were aware of the beauty of God shining through creation. The Hebrews too were aware of this as is expressed in the following responsive prayer from Psalm 65. This prayer is part of this longer litany for creation.

God you call forth songs of joy from all the earth
You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness,
God our Saviour you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
You are the hope of the farthest seas,
When morning dawns and evening fades
You call forth songs of joy
God you call forth songs of joy from all the earth
You care for the land and water it;
You enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
To provide the people with grain,
For so you have ordained it.
God you call forth songs of joy from all the earth
You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
You soften it with showers and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty,
And your carts overflow with abundance.
God you call forth songs of joy from all the earth
The grasslands of the deserts overflow;
The hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks
And the valleys are mantled with grain;
They shout for joy and sing
God you call forth songs of joy from all the earth

What is your response?

Pick up a leaf. Place it behind the next clean sheet of paper in your journal and make a rubbing of the leaf with your coloured pencil. Be gentle but press hard enough that you begin to see the outline of your leaf’s shape and its stem and veins. Take time to study your leaf closely. Smell it, rub your fingers across its surface. Touch it to your skin.

Next to your rubbing reflect on the following thoughts: What does this leaf tell you about the God who created it? What does it tell you about yourself as a created being? Your thoughts may have come together into a prayer or poem. Write that down too.

Now read through the prayer above several times. What other thoughts come to mind? Are there ways that God is prompting you to show your respect for creation in new ways? What other lessons do you sense God wants to teach you through your interaction with nature?

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