“The visible world is . . . the veil of the world invisible.”
We are all one with God, nature, and the power that moves between. Paul invites us to see God in all things. And the more I realize I am simply a part of everything ever created, the harder it is for me not to see God in all things - like me, you, and everything in between.
God becomes incarnate in the laughter of two children digging a hole and throwing sand at each other. In the birds that swoop overhead and old man asleep on a beach towel. In the tiny waves that barely lap the beach to the even smaller bug that hops around the even smaller grains of sand, God is made known to us. We are without excuse to see and acknowledge God’s mysteries.
Richard Rohr makes the argument that this is how Christ is being revealed in the world. “Christ is another name for all things.” Christ is the universal connection that ties us all together. If Rohr is correct, then we ought to be able to see Christ inside us as well as right in front of us, right here and right now in whatever space you find yourself in.
Why is this important? Does God need our recognition to survive? Or do we need to recognize God to survive? Maybe it’s not so dramatic as that. Perhaps it’s simply a way to see God so that we come to understand our place in the divine cosmic relationship with God and the entire cosmos. Or maybe it’s more simple. Maybe it’s in our understanding of this that we understand how to be who we were made to be.
Henri Nouwen makes this case:
“In recent decades we have become particularly aware of the crucial importance of our relationship with nature. As long as we relate to the trees, the rivers, the mountains, the fields, and the oceans as properties to be manipulated by us according to our real or fabricated needs, nature remains opaque and does not reveal to us its true being. When we relate to a tree as nothing more than a potential chair, it cannot speak much to us about growth. When a river is only a dumping place for our industrial wastes, it no longer informs us about movement. And when we relate to a flower as nothing more than a model for a plastic decoration, the flower loses its power to reveal to us the simple beauty of life. When we relate to nature primarily as property to be used, it becomes opaque, and this opaqueness is manifested in our society as pollution. The dirty rivers, the smog-filled skies, the strip-mined hills, and the ravaged woods are sad signs of our false relationship with nature. Our difficult and very urgent task is to accept the truth that nature is not primarily a property to be possessed, but a gift to be received with admiration and gratitude. Only when we make a deep bow to the rivers, oceans, hills, and mountains that offer us a home, only then can they become transparent and reveal to us their real meaning.”
All nature conceals its great secrets and cannot reveal its hidden wisdom and profound beauty if we do not listen carefully and patiently.
John Henry Newman sees nature as a veil through which an invisible world is intimated. He writes: “The visible world is… the veil of the world invisible…so that all that exists or happens visibly, conceals and yet suggests, and above all subserves, a system of persons, facts, and events beyond itself.”
How differently we would live if we were constantly aware of this veil, how nature is ever ready for us to hear and see the great story of the Creator’s love, to which it points?
Again, Nouwen posits, “The plants and animals with whom we live teach us about birth, growth, maturation, and death, about the need for gentle care, and especially about the importance of patience and hope. . .” It might be wise for us to allow “nature to minister to us.” St. Francis of Assisi often preached to tress and animals, but he also sat in nature to hear a sermon from the birds in the air and the bugs on the ground.
“We could do an immense service to our world if we would let nature heal, counsel, and teach again,” states Nouwen.
I have always felt at home on a beach or floating in the ocean. I have always found my peace and calm here. As a child I had no idea why sitting on a surfboard could make all my troubles disappear.
Early on I knew that in order to surf the waves I needed to be a part of the wave. I had to let go of my need to control or dominate the elements and simply let them carry me. By giving into Mother Nature, I was able to give into God. The result was always peace.
Today, as I sit on this small plot of real estate, in this small state of Delaware, my heart feels connected to the elements as it always does. When I dig my toes into the sand, feel the warm breeze tickle my skin, and breath in the sweetness of salty air, I come alive knowing I am part of it all. My heartbeat keeps time with the waves and my breath becomes part of the air. I find God’s peace come alive in me. Christ one with me.
But what sustains me is the world around me, family and strangers and birds and fish - in them and through them and all around them Christ is revealed. My joy and peace complete.
My only job is to be that, a part of nature as a little Christ, so that no one has the excuse not to know and see God in their midst.
Nouwen, Henri J.M. (2017) "You are the Beloved." The Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust: Convergent Books.
Mclaren, B. D., Rohr, R. (2019). The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe. United States: Crown Publishing Group.