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A very merry and blessed Christmas to one and all!

What a marvelous, joyous, and wonderful season begins today on this feast of the Nativity of the Lord.  How fortunate we are if we know anything of the meaning and power of this holy day.

The name Christmas–assuming it is used at all and not displaced by the vague and generic “holidays”–has largely been stripped of that meaning and power.  What our society commonly refers to as “Christmas” has become a season which now begins even before Halloween and mostly involves spending money and decorating things.  Many people in our society will be giving one last Christmas hurrah tomorrow with bargain-hunting in the stores; many others will be eagerly taking down the decorations, having begun to grow tired of them after a couple of months.  At best, Christmas is a sentimental time, a holiday for children and family and feasting.

But today is the Nativity of the Lord.  Think on that name for a moment: the Nativity of the Lord!

Today is when God was born into human history, human nature, human experience.  He who created us and the entire universe from nothing, He who exists beyond all time and space in what we call Eternity, He who is revered by all the choirs of holy angels–it is His nativity on earth that we celebrate!  He did not come down in all His great glory, attended by legions of the Heavenly Host.  He did not appear as a mighty super-man.  If He had, we certainly would not refer to this day as His nativity.  No, He was born as creatures are born: as an infant.  Small, helpless, thoroughly dependent on others for survival.

Never had such a thing ever happened or even been dreamed of before.  Nor shall such a thing ever happen again in time and space.  It was a singular event, the Nativity of the Lord.  That alone should earn our respect and our amazement.  But like a drop of water impacting a still body of water, His Nativity changed everything–changes everything–and forever will change everything!  The mingling of the material and the divine, of history and eternity, of the finite and the infinite could not fail to change everything.  The birth of God in the world gave new birth to everything.  It elevated humanity and all creation to a previously unimagined dignity, while revealing in the almighty God a profound and previously unimagined humility.

Modern man may imagine that after more than two millennia, he is no longer affected by nor subject to that event.  He rationalizes away the holy season of Christmas as nothing more than a modern-day Saturnalia or Yuletide.  And so it has become!  While that is not entirely a bad thing, that isn’t the depth or breadth or truth of it.  While many modern men will be content to leave it at that and rush off toward the next big festival, the Christian can never be content with such a thing.

Instead, let us allow ourselves to dive deeply into the tremendous wonder of this holy season and be carried, transported, and transformed by it.  Let us appreciate and give thanks for the incredible thing our Lord did for us in His Nativity.  And let us not do so only today, but for the entire Christmas season: the Twelve Days of Christmas, the Epiphany, and up until the Baptism of the Lord–to my knowledge, this is what Catholics observe as the Christmas season.  While the rest of the world gets back to business as usual, let us persevere in the joy and wonder of Christ’s birth.

I have found so many excellent blogs, and I do try to read each of them fairly regularly.  I thought I would share some of my favorite posts that I’ve come across lately.  Enjoy!

—  Father V at Adam’s Ale thinks about the death penalty in The End. Lest anyone accuse Catholics of not caring about that issue.

—  Julie at Happy Catholic examines Christians, Slavery, and Abortion.  She has a nice little collection of writings on abortion and slavery, the comparison between them, and the role of Christians in combating them.

—  Alan at Ad Altare Dei has a post about Melissa Ohden, Abortion Survivor.  It includes a video of a speech she delivered at Catholic University of America.  Such testimony is so powerful… it really gives a face to abortion.

—  Jeff at the St. Peter Canisius Apostolate has excellent advice for What to do about Spiritual Sloth.

—  HallowedGround is always a treasure trove of Catholic patrimony.  Ken’s latest, The Devil has no Knees, features the practice of kneeling to receive Communion: a practice still in force at my home parish, I’m grateful  to say.  God Makes Wonderful Things, however, is something a bit different, and extremely fascinating!

Cross as Tree of Life

Again, I wish you all a happy Feast of the Triumph of the Cross!

This beautiful image is a detail of a photograph by Lawrence OP.  I highly recommend that you click over there and view the entire thing and take in all the beautiful and delightful details of this Tree of Life mosaic!  It is a thing of tremendous beauty and wonder!  I dearly  wish that more of our contemporary Christian art, and particularly art within our churches, possessed such beauty and wonder… I think it would do wonders for revitalizing the faith in our world.  (But I digress.)

I am always captivated by the image of the cross as the Tree of Life.  It captures so well the meaning of the cross as an instrument of life, love, and salvation. As I mentioned yesterday, there are many people who find the cross, and particularly the Crucifix, to be highly disturbing.  I think the basic reason is that their vision of it stops short: they see it as death, but not as sacrifice; they see Christ as a man who was brutally killed on the cross, whether justly or unjustly, but they do not see Chirst as God who chose to become man and chose to suffer and die so brutally.  A sacrifice isn’t just death… it is death chosen by oneself out of love for another, and usually for the sake of another’s life.

Society tends to find the very notion of sacrifice to be jarring and perhaps insane.  I don’t just say this about our own society, you notice, because it’s not only our society.  After all, St. Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians:

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. … Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  (1 Cor. 1:18, 22-25)

It takes certain divine graces of faith and understanding to apprehend the true meaning of Cross and Crucifix.

As I’ve mentioned before, it also helps that our Christian culture is rich with art and literature created by our forebears who did receive such divine graces and the talents to express them.  The Byzantine mosaic artists who created the image above are one example.  Another example comes to us from the anonymous Anglo-Saxon Christian poet who gave us the glorious Dream of the Rood. Here is an excerpt from a modern English translation by Dr. Jonathan Glenn, in which the “most wondrous tree” itself speaks:

“It was long since–I yet remember it–
that I was hewn at holt’s end,
moved from my stem. Strong fiends seized me there,
worked me for spectacle; cursèd ones lifted me.
On shoulders men bore me there, then fixed me on hill;
fiends enough fastened me. Then saw I mankind’s Lord
come with great courage when he would mount on me.
Then dared I not against the Lord’s word
bend or break, when I saw earth’s
fields shake. All fiends
I could have felled, but I stood fast.
The young hero stripped h
imself–he, God Almighty–
strong and stout-minded. He mounted high gallows,
bold before many, when he would loose mankind.
I shook when that Man clasped me. I dared, still, not bow to earth,
fall to earth’s fields, but had to stand fast.
Rood was I reared. I lifted a mighty King,
Lord of the heavens, dared not to bend.
With dark nails they drove me through: on me those sores are seen,
open malice-wounds. I dared not scathe anyone.
They mocked us both, we two together. All wet with blood I was,
poured out from that Man’s side, after ghost he gave up.
Much have I born on that hill
of fierce fate. I saw the God of hosts
harshly stretched out. Darknesses had
wound round with clouds the corpse of the Wielder,
bright radiance; a shadow went forth,
dark under heaven. All creation wept,
King’s fall lamented. Christ was on rood.
But there eager ones came from afar
to that noble one. I beheld all that.
Sore was I with sorrows distressed, yet I bent to men’s hands,
with great zeal willing. They took there Almighty God,
lifted him from that grim torment. Those warriors abandoned me
standing all blood-drenched, all wounded with arrows.
They laid there the limb-weary one, stood at his body’s head;
beheld they there heaven’s Lord, and he himself rested there,
worn from that great strife. Then they worked him an earth-house,
men in the slayer’s sight carved it from bright stone,
set in it the Wielder of Victories. Then they sang him a sorrow-song,
sad in the eventide, when they would go again
with grief from that great Lord. He rested there, with small company.
But we there lamenting a good while
stood in our places after the warrior’s cry
went up. Corpse grew cold,
fair life-dwelling. Then someone felled us
all to the earth. That was a dreadful fate!
Deep in a pit one delved us. Yet there Lord’s thanes,
friends, learned of me,
adorned me with silver and gold.
Now you may know, loved man of mine,
what I, work of baleful ones, have endured
of sore sorrows. Now has the time come
when they will honor me far and wide,
men over earth, and all this great creation,
will pray for themselves to this beacon. On me God’s son
suffered awhile. Therefore I, glorious now,
rise under heaven, and I may heal
any of those who will reverence me.

Despite the horror of the Crucifixion, even the cross, once a living tree, sacrificed itself so that Christ could save mankind and all creation.  Therefore, the cross itself is worthy of our veneration.  In fact, we might go so far as to say that in becoming the Lord’s cross, that tree became the first non-human creature to receive Christ’s redemption, perhaps a foreshadow of all creation’s redemption at the end of time.  Let us indeed reverence it!

The Dream of the Rood is a wonderful piece of writing to meditate upon!

Found via Father Z, this is absolutely amazing:  live footage of the total solar eclipse that occurred August 1st, taken in western China.  I’ve never seen a total solar eclipse live before, and it is truly glorious!

I’ve always found eclipses to be a wondrous thing, and a sign of an ingenious and purposeful Creator.  Not only that, but also a Creator who loves to surprise and delight us!  What are the chances that the moon would appear exactly the same size as the sun from Earth?  And that seeing them interact would be such a thrilling and enchanting experience?  Accident?  Coincidence?  Nonsense!

Another slightly revised re-post originally written 4 April 2008.

Allow me to continue talking about nature and what it has meant to me. I love nature very much, and find considerable joy in it–I know this probably comes across in my journal, but probably not nearly enough to convey the real magnitude of my love.

Unfortunately, love of nature was one of the things that attracted me to paganism when I was in my late teens… and, of course, led me away from the Church. I’m not blaming love of nature for that, of course; it was my own ignorance and lack of serious reflection upon my faith. I felt like the only time nature was ever mentioned in the Church was when man was lorded over it. And I didn’t think that was very fair. I found the stories about St. Francis to be silly and sentimental and cliche.

Before I knew it, I was reading books about “being one with” nature, about Wicca, and about “white magick,” and also touches of Buddhism and Hinduism. And I was really fascinated and enamoured. At first, it all seemed so serene and even and balanced. But before long, I began to realize that, at best, I myself was becoming silly and sentimental and cliche. Worse than that, I was losing my ability to look at nature objectively, to feel delight and wonderment at its other-ness, to explore its mysteries, and to think rationally about it. Worst of all, I found that in studying and practicing magick and other occult arts, I wasn’t loving nature or other people or anything at all–in reality, I was lording myself over everything and everyone, and (so I thought) I was just casting myself in the role of that all-powerful God I had come to despise along with everything else Christian!

In the end, I was very disillusioned and very deranged. I generally kept acting the role of the kind, peaceful, harmless, benevolent, loving “good witch.” But it was just like a game. It served my purposes. In reality, I veered about in some of the darkest places a soul can go: materialism, atheism, false rationalism, satanism. I forgot my genuine love of nature. I’m not really sure how much genuine love I had for my fellow man–even my family and friends! The devil is good at imitating love… and I probably was too.

Needless to say, my life was falling apart in these days. I was generally in denial about it, of course. I couldn’t possibly fail, after all. If I did acknowledge it, it was only to blame others–especially God, my greatest enemy (yes, I was usually one of those “atheists” who really just hates God). Eventually, everything hit rock bottom, and my parents–who have always represented pretty much everything that is good in this world to me–came to rescue me and give me a fresh start.

Two unrelated things happened which, together, had an enormous impact on me, though I didn’t realize it at the time: I got a kidney stone, and it snowed. That probably sounds really strange, doesn’t it? Let me say that I just hate going to doctors and hospitals. But the pain from the kidney stone was such that I was begging to go! It transported me right out of myself, beyond all my likes and dislikes, beyond my worries and fears. My parents got me to the hospital. Once they got me settled in a bed, they gave me an IV of some really strong pain-killer. The drug transported me in a different way. It made me calm, and while it made me tired, it also gave my mind a certain fleeting clarity. I remember I had to go to the bathroom, and my mom walked me down the hall. We passed a window, and it was snowing! I was drawn to the window, where I stared in awe at the big snowflakes coming down, and was enchanted by how white and softly luminous the world seemed. Some of the flakes were gathering on a dark green little evergreen shrub. I didn’t think I’d ever seen anything so beautiful in my life! It was like being in a different world… it was like being a different person. In a moment, my mom brought me away, and the moment was over. But that glorious moment would remain with me, in secret.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that it was about that time that I began to think of God as something other than an enemy. I’m not sure what it was that made me start going back to church. Not regularly, or with any real level of commitment, but still. I remember sitting in the car with my dad one evening, outside a church. I remember asking him, “What if I’m wrong? What if I’ve been wrong all these years? What if I was wrong to leave the Church? What is going to happen to me? I don’t want to go to Hell!” I think my dad was really shocked, but also relieved and hopeful–he saw a chink in the armor I had built up around myself. Of all the things I had come to doubt–at last, at last, I was beginning to doubt my own doubts! After that evening, the world began to look much different and much brighter to me.

It helped that we were living in a very beautiful place (right outside Louisville, Kentucky), where there are four distinct seasons. After living on the Gulf Coast for so long, I found myself getting really excited about the spring flowers and the summer fireflies and the autumn leaves and the winter snow! My love of nature slowly began creeping back into me. And with my wonder at nature, my wonder at God began to grow. They went hand in hand, really. This process took several years. But I felt I was becoming more myself again. And God was becoming an object of love once more, rather than of hatred.

As I know I’ve told before, my real religious conversion happened when I lost Patrick, my first true love and my future husband. On that evening when I got the news, God showed His face. And He showed it in nature. As beautiful as the snow on the evergreen had been, it was nothing compared to that evening. It was 28 April 2005, about 7:30 PM, just after I’d gotten the news of Patrick’s death. I was outside waiting for my uncle to pick me up. The sky was unlike anything I’d ever seen: rose and gold and blue and violet and white. There was a soft, sweet-smelling breeze, and on the breeze were tons of little white blossoms from a tree next door. All I could think and feel was that I was beholding something much greater than myself. And it wasn’t anything threatening or oppressive–it was something good and tender and protective. And actually, it wasn’t an “it” at all. It was a Person. It was God. He was there. He was gazing at me with that magnificent sky. He was coaxing me with the sweet wind. There was a great thrill of expectation everywhere–He was waiting to see what I would do now. Would I finally come back to Him, or would I reject Him yet again, for the millionth time? I could have done either. But faced with that glorious vision, I just left everything behind–all the hatred and the darkness and the catastrophes of my past years. I chose Him! I chose Him, and I loved Him, and I submitted to Him… and to this day, even though that was the most horrible evening of my entire life… it was also the most beautiful.

While that evening provided a kind of Road-to-Damascus conversion experience, my conversion was really quite slow.  There were many struggles, many relapses on my part, and many dreary days after that. But as time went on, the world was set aright, and I regained my proper place within it. By the time a year had gone by, there was no trace left in me of the silly new-ager, the brooding occultist, or the demented God-hater. I regained my mental and emotional appreciation of nature. I wasn’t “one with it”–and that was as it should be. We can’t fully appreciate nature without a certain detachment from it. God, in His wisdom, built that detachment into us by making us fundamentally different than any other creature. He made us more like Himself than any other earthly creature. He elevated us above every other creature. Not so that we could lord ourselves over nature, but so that we could serve it and tend to it and love it and care for it and explore it and work out the puzzles of it and call down God’s graces upon it.

The glory of being human is that we are between God and nature! Never completely separate from either, of course. But we have our very own, very special realm, with its own special responsibilities: stewardship toward nature, worship toward God. Sometimes the two overlap, as they did today for me–but paganism it is not! The Christian loves nature because God made and also loves nature. To the Christian, all creatures have value and worth because God created them and holds them in being. The Christian naturally makes an excellent scientist because he can regard nature objectively, while also with sheer wonder at the same time. The Christian regards nature as an elaborate gift from a lover to delight His beloved. But nature also serves as a reminder of man’s failing. When things go wrong in nature, it is because of the fallen world man’s sin has created. Both sin and grace come into the world by way of man; of all creatures, only man can sin and only man can be restored to grace. Therefore, the Christian has a particularly strong understanding of just how much nature depends on us… and just what hangs in the balance.

In short: nature has been very integral to my spiritual life. I would go so far as to say that, for any of us, how we act toward nature and where we stand with God are very closely related. We can’t truly love one if we neglect the other–before long, we will have neglected both. If we are very, very fortunate, we might also regain both.

This is another slightly revised re-post, originally written 4 April 2008.  First, read this post to get the full story.

[Referring to the photograph in this post]:  Isn’t it lovely? As you can tell from the sunlight, it was a gloriously beautiful day. Very windy. The tulip swayed as my hair blew around my face. It was very different from the other day, which was so still and grey. I think that both the tulip and I felt much better… even though we’d both seen better days. I talked to the tulip again. I said, “I love you and care about you. And if I do, then you can be sure that God does. And if He loves and cares for you, then I’m sure He loves and cares for me too.” And the tulip swayed such that it seemed to be nodding its head in agreement. That really cheered me up!

I then noticed other things. Near the base of the tulip, I saw a little “roly-poly” millipede wandering around, seemingly happy. The other day, I had also seen a millipede wandering over the stone ledge of the bed and into the soil. I wondered if this was the same one, who had now found a nice, comfy new home. That thought made me happy too. I hoped I would be so fortunate one day… my apartment isn’t bad, and I don’t mean to complain, but it was never meant to be a long-term home for me… and I still am not completely at home there. My heart still longs for a real home–as opposed to merely a roof over my head.

I looked down at my feet, at the large glistening stone squares that pave the plaza. I noticed that in some spots, tiny little plants were growing between the pavers. They were all poor-looking little things. But they were doing their best to just grow where they’d been planted. I hoped that I could do the same–to just persevere. I suppose that many of them were just weeds… but who am I to judge? God holds them in existence just as He does the tulip and the millipede and me.

I looked back at the tulip, and I realized that in talking to and thinking about all these little creatures around me… I had really been praying all along: “Lord, I know that you love me and care for me. Lord, please help me find a true home, my true place. Lord, please help me to persevere, no matter where and no matter what the circumstances.”

I’ve read that at the end of time, when the new Heaven and the new Earth come, and all the people who ever lived are resurrected with our souls and bodies reunited forever, that nature and all creation will also be resurrected. I really like that idea (and shall have to study it further). I think that nature and all God’s creatures deserve to come back and live in a perfect world. They deserve to be saved too… because even now, in ways great and small, they help save us. At least, God is able to use them as His instruments. And they never reject Him… they never ask what is in it for them… they just humbly exist, and allow Him to do as He pleases. That is a big lesson for us as well.

This is a slightly revised re-post of something I originally wrote on 2 April 2008.

What was it about today? I think it actually started yesterday. April. April is a difficult month for me. Whenever the anniversary of Pope John Paul’s death comes, the anniversary of Patrick’s death isn’t very far behind. They’re like book-ends to the month of April. And everything in-between is colored by loss and by grief and by profound loneliness.

I thought, I hoped, that this year might be different. But at the very core of things, it isn’t.

I tried to just stick it out [at work], to just turn my mind to other things, to pray… but it was impossible. I felt like a trapped animal. Just like I did in those early days. Panic. Rage. Aching to cry, aching to scream, aching to break down in tears–anything to let out my pain! But not being able. Not there. Not in front of other people.

Finally, I went outside. I wanted to be alone… but I didn’t want to feel lonely. And lonely is what I felt. The sky was misty and grey, just barely holding back its rain, just as I was barely holding back my tears. It was quiet, and the wind was soft–not an invigorating wind. There were unusually few people out. The world seemed empty. I just began to walk.

I walked from the library all the way to the art museum–a pretty fair walk. The whole time, I was trying to pray… trying to pray… but my emotions got the best of me. What did my grief counselor used to tell me? “God knows you better than you know yourself, so you shouldn’t try to hide your feelings, even if you feel angry at Him.” And I did feel angry at Him, just as I used to. And I didn’t hide it. But I was more despondent than angry. And more lonely than anything. I even had moments of shock they way I used to–when I would stop, completely dumbfounded, and ask, “Is this really my life? Can this really be my life? How on earth could this happen?”

I climbed the steps up to the sort of elevated plaza that wraps around the front of the museum. It was very empty, and the sky seemed very large. Still that flat, opaque light grey. It looked much colder than it was. I walked all the way around the building. Along the sides are pretty little plantings with pretty little fountains. All kinds of shrubs and herbs and flowers and trees. I never noticed them before. Normally, they would have filled me with all kinds of delight… but I was just on the margins today. Just barely catching the fragrances and the sounds and the colors.My yellow tulip

Until I saw the yellow tulip. I was drawn by the little spot of bright yellow. I walked over to it. I found that it actually looked rather tired and sad and lonely. There were other tulip plants around it, but none had flowers. I sat down on the ledge beside the tulip. I looked at it, and it waved its weary petals at me. I understood it. It was all alone in that still, grey world, with nobody who could relate to it, nobody who could understand what it was going through. Even though I could sit with it and look at it lovingly, there was really nothing I could do for it. Awkwardly, I said, “Don’t worry, little tulip. The others will soon grow and bloom. God will provide for you. I know you can’t see it now, but He will.”

Then, sadly, I stood up and began the walk back to the library. And both the tulip and I were just as sad and lonely as we’d been before. If I could have, I would have brought the tulip up from its bed and carried it with me. But that wouldn’t have been right at all. It would have only hurt the tulip, maybe inflicted an early, painful death. I could do nothing. I had to entrust the tulip to God and His providence.

And then, just as I had spoken to the tulip, I heard a voice speaking to me:

If you know that I will provide for the little tulip, why do you fear that I will not provide for you, my own cherished daughter? If your heart feels compassion for it, do you think I do not feel for my own child? The tulip is not my own child. The tulip is something I made for you.

And that… that changed everything! I felt peace and calm. I felt like the world was right once more, and that I was fully part of it. I also felt terribly ashamed of myself and my earlier behavior and crazy emotions. But He laughed it off, and sent me on my way. The office was quiet and calm when I got back. Suddenly, it was pretty much just like any other day.

Only, I don’t get to hear His voice like that every day. Not like that. It made this day special. And that was the most shocking thing of all!

I think I shall have to go visit my tulip each day now, to see how it is faring. I know I probably shouldn’t get attached… but, of course, it’s already too late for that!

After last night’s post about creation and redemption, I was pleased to find that today’s Morning Prayer includes the canticle of the men in the furnace from Daniel 3:56-88, and Psalm 148.  These scriptures speak of all Earth’s creatures sharing in the blessing and praising of God, together with mankind and the angels.  I found the Psalm-prayer especially lovely:

Lord, extolled in the heights by angelic powers, You are also praised by all Earth’s creatures, each in its own way.  With all the splendor of heavenly worship, You still delight in such tokens of love as Earth can offer.  May Heaven and Earth together acclaim You as King; may the praise that is sung in Heaven resound in the heart of every creature on Earth.

Along with yesterday’s selection from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, these scriptures beautifully express wonder at creation, and suggest that there is much more to the created world than we perhaps realize.  Other creatures may not be able to pray and worship in the same way as humans do, and I consider anthropomorphosis to be an insult to the nature of other creatures, but perhaps, in some mysterious way that science cannot discern, they know and respond to God too.

If nothing else, other creatures, animate and inanimate, certainly help us to know God and His infinite beauty and creative genius–that can be considered a part they play in the great unfolding of prayer and worship.

I have to say though… whenever I recite the Liturgy of the Hours or the Rosary (I say them out loud), I get the feeling that my cats are listening and that they somehow know, and are in tune with, what I am doing.  :)

I have always found this reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans rather fascinating:

Reading II for Sunday, 13 July 2008: Rom 8:18-23

Brothers and sisters:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God;
for creation was made subject to futility,
not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,
in hope that creation itself
would be set free from slavery to corruption
and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;
and not only that, but we ourselves,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

It is a beautiful passage, full of great longing and anticipation.  We yearn for the renewal and the completion of ourselves: union with God, restoration of humanity, both body and soul, to the glory and purity God originally created us with.

But we are not the only ones longing and anticipating that glorious end–all creation does as well!  Adam and Eve were the crowning glory of all creation, and all creation was subject to them.  When they fell, all creation fell, along with all their human descendants.  All became subject to corruption, pain, death, and evil.  And so, we are awaiting our restoration to glory, and creation is awaiting the restoration of its proper masters and mistresses.  When that happens, all creation will be freed of the ravages of the fall.  All creatures will share in the glory of the New Heaven and New Earth.

This text reminds us that human beings and the rest of creation have an intimate relationship and closely-intertwined destinies.  And we need to have a clear perspective of what that relationship is.  It is not a flat, horizontal relationship where human beings are just one sort of creature among the others.  Humans have a place apart from and above all other creatures.  Human beings have dominion over creation; creation depends upon humans.

There are many people in our world today who do not see it that way.  They place other creatures (usually animals) on the same level as humans–or even above humans!  They are more interested in the concerns of other creatures than they are for human concerns.  They act as if we must heal creation in order to heal ourselves, and we must fight for other creatures’ rights before we fight for human rights.  I am thinking of the many people I’ve encountered who consider it far more important to earn rights for animals than to earn rights for vulnerable human beings (the unborn, the aged, the ailing).

They have an inverted view.  Of course, human beings depend on other creatures to an extent–for food, for materials, often for labor, as well as companionship.  If we fail to be good stewards of creation, we will suffer.  But creation relies on us much more still.  Creation needs us to be children of God.  Creation needs us to attain to God’s grace, to God’s supernatural life.  Creation needs us to be transformed and restored.  And the moral decisions we make have everything to do with whether or not that transformation and restoration can come about.  Creation doesn’t get to choose its own fate–human beings do.  We choose our own fate, and creation’s fate follows from ours.  Grace flows from the top down: from God to humans to the rest of creation.  It does not rise from the bottom up, as some people seem to believe.

We humans have to choose the best life for ourselves first.  We must work to ensure justice and mercy, life and liberty for ourselves first.  We must choose God first.  Without us doing all of this for ourselves, the rest of creation doesn’t stand a chance.  As long as we stand for ruin among our own, creation will suffer ruin.  As long as we snuff out human life, there is no hope for other creatures.  If we cannot love each other, then we cannot love other creatures.  And if we cannot love God (who is Love Itself), then we cannot love each other.  All love comes from recognizing God’s will–including His will that humans and other creatures exist.

Love creation, yes–that is part of what it means to be human.  But love fellow human beings more.  That is the key to bringing about God’s kingdom and the restoration of the whole world.

I shall have to repost some of my recent writings about my own relationship with creation and my great love and delight in it.

Related Posts:

Creation and prayer

A tulip helps save me from grief

The tulip and me, cont.

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