Practice: Intimacy with Creation

In every religion we find the need to consecrate our participation in the natural world. This is especially evident in the tribal religions of native peoples. Their songs and prayers express a great courtesy toward the natural world. For example, the refrain “We return thanks” in the thanksgiving ritual of the Iroquois Indians—first to our mother, the Earth which sustains us, then to the rivers and streams, to the bushes and trees, to the elements, and finally to the Great Spirit who directs all things—reveals the intimacy of their relation with the entire Earth community. —Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon [1] A Navajo chant expresses the depth of this intimacy with, and participation in, nature:
The mountains,
I become part of it . . .
The herbs, the fir tree,
I become part of it.
The morning mists, the clouds, the gathering waters,
I become part of it.
The wilderness, the dew drops, the pollen . . .
I become part of it. [2]
We also are able to “become part of it” when we are aware that we share the Spirit of God with all creation, as the following passage inspired by Celtic theologian Pelagius (360-418) affirms:
Look at the animals roaming the forest: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the birds flying across the sky: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the tiny insects crawling in the grass: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the fish in the river and sea: God’s spirit dwells within them. There is no creature on earth in whom God is absent. . . . When God pronounced that his creation was good, it was not only that his hand had fashioned every creature; it was that his breath had brought every creature to life. Look too at the great trees of the forest; look even at your crops. God’s spirit is present within all plants as well. The presence of God’s spirit in all living things is what makes them beautiful; and if we look with God’s eyes, nothing on the earth is ugly. [3]
Go out into the natural world and look with God’s eyes; listen with God’s ears; know your place within God’s good creation. [1] Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon, ed., Earth Prayers: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations from Around the World (HarperOne: 1991), xxi. [2] Ibid., 5. [3] The Letters of Pelagius: Celtic Soul Friend, ed. Robert Van de Weyer (Arthur James Ltd.: 1995) as quoted by J. Philip Newell, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality (Paulist Press: 1997), 10-11. Image Credit: National Powwow Grass Dancers (detail), 2007, Smithsonian Institute creator, photographer Cynthia Frankenburg, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.