“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.”
These words, written by the great author George Washington Carver at the turn of the 20th century, are being rediscovered by a new generation of Christians and those seeking something deeper than the materialistic philosophy of the modern world. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the whole earth, in fact, the whole universe, was seen at that time as a living icon, which reflects the very face and purpose of God. In no place was His voice more clear and authentic than within His very creation. The patriarchs, saints, and Jesus himself had a deep understanding of the rich spiritual lessons learned through that still, quiet voice which spoke to their souls within the sacred places of nature.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, humanity’s basic desire is still to know God. Nature, as a visual and tangible expression of God’s Being, is not only TEACHER and HEALER but also part of the PROPHETIC VISION. As TEACHER, it manifests love and wisdom, yet while inspiring, it can be stern, just and uncompromising. As HEALER, it is regenerative and uplifting when entered with respect, humility, reverence and an open heart for God. As PROPHETIC VISION, it declares the divine reality and eternal power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Thus the church today, more than ever, cries out to rediscover the mystery of nature’s sacred places. Sacred gardens exist for those who would have the courage to seek them out and those who would be open to receive the loving voice of the Father, whose voice speaks of peace and reconciliation.
“The parallel between nature and scripture is so complete; we must necessarily believe that the person who is asking questions of nature and the person who is asking questions of Scripture are bound to arrive at the same conclusions.” (St. Origen)
St. Origen, how does one begin to open the “Book of Nature?” By walking into nature’s library. Go find a natural place. Enter in. Sit and be silent for one hour and in that one hour, the entire collection in God’s heavenly library will be opened up to you offering you a lifetime of exploration and discovery.
Fr. Stephen Young