Tag Archive: creation


tiger

 

Very often, late at night, looking out at the faint outline of trees, the vast dark skies and eerie moonlight floating above, I think of nature, and God’s wisdom displayed therein. You know the “beasts of earth” and “birds of air” type stuff- and how man was given dominion over them. Too unfortunately, some Christians interpret this as a harsh dominion. Protestant Christian philosophy seems to harbor innate hostility towards nature, a “take and kill what you want” attitude which allows devastation of natural resources. “What use is fussing about the temporary world?” they say “God’s going to destroy it all anyway.”

Now, Catholic philosophy has long said “Let all that lives and breathes bless the Lord.” Some of our great saints, such as Francis of Assisi, Kateri Tekakwitha and Hubert, the patron of hunters, walked amongst nature and saw God’s hand at work in it. We see, on Christmas day, the newborn Jesus adored by lowly ox and ass. We tell stories of mules bowing before the Eucharist and doves landing on popes. To the Catholic Christian, natural things convey supernatural realities. After all, we’re those weirdoes who believe that bread and wine actually becomes the body and blood of Christ. And I fancy only a Catholic would stop and ponder the deeper, theological meaning of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.

Though the character of Mowgli, considered neither man nor wolf, strikes me as a sort of savior-figure, who masters the animals and destroys their chief enemy, there is something perhaps more subtle that catches my eye. It is the jungle’s creation-story, in the second installment which foretells when every animal will fall under one law. During a severe draught, a truce is declared for sake of survival. At the water hole, where animals drink, none of them may kill or hunt another. Here, Mowgli learns that Shere-Khan, the tiger, killed a man, asks why and then hears the jungle creation-story.

It begins with a creator-god…or elephant; who makes all the jungle creatures, all the land, water and food. All animals only eat plants and fruit- they are innocent. It is the Tiger who brings sin into the world. He gets banished and fear takes flesh in the form of hairless, cunning human beings. The tiger returns, admits his crime but then slays the human out of pride. He says: “I killed fear” but because he did so, man, that fearsome creature, learns to kill and deal death. Here we see the motif of creation, paradise and original sin. Interestingly, the Tiger is given one night yearly to venture forth and lawfully kill a man.

Blood begets blood. From first-kill comes first-predator. Man is fearsome, a most-wise enemy of nature who, forgetting his primordial home, builds villages and fires. He holds dominion over the animals, trapping and killing as he pleases. His tools are deadlier than any tooth or claw. Hurt by that first sin, he sets himself against nature. Likewise, Adam and Eve battled animals and forces of nature after expulsion from paradise. In Eden, they never needed fire. Yet, out in the desert, they needed not only fire, but nets, spears and knives. Against the emergent onslaught of sin and death, man devised many tools and deadly strategies. However, his enemy was- and always will be the Tiger, the agent of that first sin. A cunning predator, the Devil has allowance into our homes, a work-permit towards our destruction. Scripture compares this enemy to “a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” Pride breeds pride. In a vicious cycle, man and Devil ever threaten the world around them.

Here, the story ceases to give further insight. The rest could be guessed. I believe that henceforth, man is given a choice. He can fashion nets to save animals- or to slay them. Whether he kills for food or for pleasure makes the difference. The way he kills speaks volumes about his soul. For if God made man in His own image, ruling over the beasts, his humanness and mercy betray God. When merciless and cruel, he betrays another. By no mistake, we regard a man who loves animals as sensitive and kind but think a man who hates them as heartless and frightening. An animal-lover mirrors God who condescends to lesser beings. Like God, he feeds, tends, looks after the weak and gives shelter. He is fatherly, like a husband. The man who beats, tortures or starves animals echoes the Devil who only undermines and destroys. We would never trust him with our children!

Now, I’m not saying the perfect Christian is a tree-hugging hippie- no, I’m saying that Christian faith obliges us to care for what is beneath us. We act in God’s image whenever we feed a stray dog, scare a possum off the road or knock a bird’s egg back into the nest. A stewardship has been placed in our hands. How should we use it? We’ve all heard the saying: “Nature, red in tooth and claw.” But how, tell me, shall be man? Isn’t he more than tooth or claw? Has he not received a rational mind, ruling over the earth, wielding bow and trowel, both hunter and gardener, modeled in the loving image of God?

 

 

Nature red in tooth and claw,

man beheld natural law.

Creation laden death and glory,

forests ring with man, his story.

 

I twas a gatherer for God first gathered

the starry sky.

I twas gardener for God first planted

the greenest byre.

I twas fisherman for God first schooled

flocks of the sea

And I twas archer for God first plucked

feathered breed.

 

Lo, but after fall,

I gazed upon nature all.

Man the killer, not under law,

held fin, leaf and feather

beneath red claw.

 

Then I twas ever to bleed,

keep from bleeding

and to make bleed.

 

Once, no thing slew,

now we all slay

lest slain.

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Crucifixion with sun and moon.

Crucifixion with sun and moon.

 

You believe in the God who created the heavens and the earth. So let us remember that when He had created all things, He declared them to be “good.” Let us remember Our God, who after He created man and woman, declared them to be : “Very good.” Why very good? The universe, the earth, sea, beasts and birds, they were good. The sun and moon, night and day, they were good. But man, he was pronounced “very good.” Stooping down, God then crafted the jewel of His creation: the woman. He made her man’s helpmate, his spouse, mother, sister and daughter. Then truly, did God say “It is very good”!

The man was made like the sun at day, providing by his guiding light and strength, creating life in his rays or subjecting it to burning heat. No corn gives ears without the sun nor do trees put forth their roots. Yet the sun is charged to rule half the day and the moon rules the other. Thus, woman is made like the moon, cradling life in her silver beacon, nurturing, killing nothing. Lilies do not bloom without the moon nor does corn lay down its seed. Without the moon, seas cannot rise and feed the earth. See how both sun and moon are needed and not one has greater importance than the other? The same with man and woman!

What if the moon decided she should be like the sun? Should she try to rule the day, giving light and burning rays? What if she busied herself with furrows instead of the sea? Would not everything die? With great reason did God give half the day to the sun and half to the moon for if only sun, the earth would bake and wither and if only moon, growth would cease and the seas flood.

Remember that God fashioned man like the sun and woman like the moon. Therefore each holds partial rule. Adam was given Kingship and Eve was made Queen. In the King is creation, justice, force and command. In the Queen is nutrition, mercy, reason and intercession. One does not take place of the other. Or is God’s work deficient in some way?  Maybe you admit this scheme of things… but still you claim that such was the old world and in the new world, Christ sees no difference between man and woman and in their terms of service. Let me instruct you…

When Saint Paul says in his letter “There is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, man or woman…” he means their station before God. No longer does the Jew stand greater chance of salvation or the freeman or the man. All are free to partake in Christ’s Passover, in His new life and in His salvation. Things of status or cleanliness do not matter anymore but one’s purity of heart and perseverance in faith. Moreso, all can take the Holy Eucharist- provided they are free from grave sin.

In the heavenly liturgy, just as in Eden, there is surely distinction. While both Adam and Eve join in hymns to God, Adam must give the offering. Recall how the fathers offer sacrifice- not the mothers. Though the mother prepares the table and candles, she touches not the Paschal lamb. Thus why the risen Christ says to Mary “Touch me not” and to Thomas, “Put your hand into my side.”

Maybe you still say, “Look how women were superior disciples of Christ.” This, I concede to you. Besides John the Beloved, Our Lord had no more loyal friends than Mary Magdalene and Mary, his mother. Indeed the Samaritan woman posessed greater faith than Thomas who claimed he would die with the Lord. Martha had more charity than Philip who said the thousand could not be fed. If anyone should have been charged with offering Christ’s Eucharist, it should have been Mary, his mother of matchless faith. Yet, he did not take her into the Upper-room.

Being an apostle doesn’t make one more holy. We see the example of Judas who betrayed and Peter who fled. Women were charged with spreading Christ’s words and deeds, asked to witness miracles, give prayer and sanctify their households. They were not told “Do this in memory of me.”

From Genesis to Revelation, men are chosen to stand in the person of God. In the Old Covenant; fathers of great dynasties gave mediation and in the New; chaste eunuchs. Women have always stood by man’s side, at the foot of the cross, at the side of the altar, offering goodly prayers, their undying devotion and sanctity.

Keep in mind that a bishop, no matter how holy he may be, can never offer motherhood to God. He can never offer a womb or a fairness like the moon. He lacks the jewel of creation, which is to be a mother, daughter and sister. Man stands in the person of Christ but woman, she spreads her arms in the venerable person of Mary. Christ was the Lamb of God but Mary was the Ewe. Man offers sacrifice but woman offers her glory which reflects like moonlight, a glory never to be stolen away or diminished.

 

Picture the most beautiful sight you could ever chance upon… perhaps a snow-swept mountainside or an iridescent-feathered bird of paradise. Imagine the most luxurious scent you could ever smell… a whiff of burning frankincense, a sultry gardenia blossom. Imagine the sweetest sound you could ever hear… a virtuoso’s symphony, the tinkling of sleigh bells. Imagine the most delicious taste and the most pleasing thing you ever touched. Oh how great these things are!

Now, imagine this: that all the wonderful sensations in the world are but a foretaste of heavenly things. The pitter-pat of rain and awesome clamor of thunder are but hints of the majesty of God. Morning sunlight on your skin is but a shadow of the Blessed face of God. All our satisfied- and unsatisfied appetites are only a foreshadowing of our consuming desire for God. Our senses are gifts, love letters sent to us that we may delight in creation and look forward even more to the Creator. That first bite into a ripe mango, the caress of a lover’s hands, the rumble of a cat purring on your lap, all are reminders of a Creator deeply in love with us!

I remember reading in the Old Testament that no man has seen the face of God, for if he should gaze upon God, he would die.

“And again he said: Thou canst not see my face: for man shall not see me and live.” – Exodus 33:20.

Because God is so indescribably beautiful, more splendid than anything in the universe, we would simply die from beauty. Our sinful ugliness would quiver in the Divine Presence and not stand to live. But the amazing thing is that God took all His killer-beauty and became man! That Beauty which withstood not a slightest imperfection, descended to walk amongst abject ugliness and sin. Truly Jesus, in one of his most shattering statements, told his disciples:

“He who has seen me has seen the Father” – John 12:45.

How the Lord deigned to wrap us in divine love and terrific beauty! How Love and Beauty Himself met death so we may see the Father, He who lit stars and painted planets with His fingers, who commanded the sun to burn and rise!

Perhaps one thing about as scandalous as God becoming man was the fact that through Jesus Christ, man could become like God.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3:2

Ponder this a moment…In the Beatific Vision won for us by Christ, we will at last see the face of God- and we will not die!! Truly these are the depths of love and beauty of which, we can readily perceive every lovely, beautiful thing in the universe is but a foretaste. More than sensuous, resplendent and enrapturing things, we were made to desire God from Whom every goodness comes. Yet God does not stand apart on account of our lowliness… He does not deprive humanity of our One Desire because of our guilt; no He brings the One Desired to us!

The greatest, happiest memory we have lived is a taste of God’s love. Whatever ravishes us: the canvas of stars above, the embraces of romance, a stirring motet, Mona-Lisa enshrined, a romp with your kids on a summer day, is a small taste of what God has stored for us. It is written in Paul’s letters that eye has not seen nor ear has heard what God has in mind for those who love Him.

stairway_to_heaven_by_tizz77

Moreso, when God enters into us, we become beautiful for it is our souls that are His desired. God stooped down into our mean existence, not a little- but all the way. God became man, suffering and wretched man, to reclaim His one desire. Thus, it only makes sense the beloved would be shaped into the image of the Lover. On earth, the Christian soul may yearn in expectation, groaning within us, awaiting the blessed moment when beloved and Lover unite. Upon our deathbeds, may we joyfully incline our ears as God whispers, in sweetest poetry, saying:

See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.

Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come,  

the cooing of doves is heard in our land.

The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.

Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.”

–          Song of Songs 2:11-13

Image

 

Working overnight affords little advantages. You feel taxed, achy, weary and cranky for the whole week and on top of that, must manage to sleep during the day when the sun shines and neighbors mow their grass. It is trial and tribulation!

However, near the end of my shift, I had to pause and notice something: the dawn. Nearly frozen, I eyed the sky which seemed to crack open with light, the grass shining like viridian glass, clouds that swirled like blue opal. I had to bask in the crispness of the air.

See, the dawn voices its praise to God. It was at this time that our redemption was won, that all creation was renewed. In the blurry dawn light, Christ rose up; that the voice of sin was silenced, that the cold grip of death became melted by rays from the conquering sun.

Therefore, at this time, everything seems brightest and freshest as if on the first day of creation. All the earth from singing birds, glistening blades of grass and shimmering waters, gives praise to God above. How the heavens, in violet and magenta streaks, render their exultation!

In the mere minutes from 6:30 to 6:45, God makes His face known. All awakens from the long, dark night. Clouds part like curtains to reveal this great opera: Animals stir as if being born for the first time. Flowers unfold as if waking from deep sleep.  Birds open their mouths, singing their lauds. Insects and butterflies unfurl their wings, coaxing the first strides of new life.  The world echoes rebirth. Even the dew-laden air seems to whisper: “Rejoice!”

One cannot help but stand awed. One cannot leave this primordial scene without a memory of our ancient paradise, without a pulse stirring inside. For if one’s heart remains silent, surely the earth and skies shall cry out.

 

Some music to go along with this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RM7cQCC4sU