Blessings without words

love and fear

A friend sent me some photos of a spectacular sunrise over Wellington.

The crimson glow on the sky and harbour progressed to orange and deep purple before it faded to a promise of rain.

That sunrise was my prayer for the morning.

It perfectly described the fire of Pentecost that, paradoxically, sets us alight and then refreshes our dryness.

Perhaps you also saw that sunrise, and you dissolved into wordless prayer.

If you, like me, spend your days paddling through a swimming pool of words, you will treasure these moments.

They are precious.

And since “theology” literally means knowledge of God, I call these moments, “Theology of Nature.”

Have you ever touched the bark of a large tree, expecting to feel the rough texture, and instead, have come in contact with a surge of God-life?

What happens inside you when you pick up a shell, a flower or the feather of a bird, and hold it close to your eyes as you did when you were a child?

Do you feel wonder? Blessing?

And did those feelings mingle to form silent prayer?

Not long ago, the neighbours’ two children were at our back door, each carrying a hen’s egg in a cupped hand.

The eggs, still warm from the hen house, were a gift that felt like Eucharist as they were quietly transferred to my hands.

Nothing was said, but God was everywhere.

Smiling, the children scampered off and an old woman stood in the doorway, holding two warm eggs, one white and one a caramel colour.

I could hear Jesus saying, “Except you become as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”

For me, the operative word in that quote is “become.”

We do not stay as little children.

In becoming, we turn full circle and arrive at a place of eloquent simplicity that has life experience behind it.

Having worked with words most of my life, I now find that some nouns elude me.

This can be inconvenient, but it also reminds me that words fragment the Oneness of God’s creation.

Naming things creates separation.

This is not an error. It is a process we go through, and it is recognised by all religions.

In Buddhism, it is said that when we are young, a tree is simply a tree.

As we grow, we learn the parts of a tree: roots, trunk, branches, leaves.

We define further to talk about xylem, phloem, cambium layer, chlorophyll, photosynthesis and so on.

Eventually, a tree is simply a tree again, but now we know what it is like to be a tree.

I’m aware that when I forget words like xylem and phloem, God is in the space.

Our mystical poets have always known the sacred Oneness beyond our divided thinking.

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” Then he adds, “There is the dearest freshness deep down things…”

That dearest freshness is deep in our liturgy if we look for it. It is also in every shell, flower, feather and sunrise.

Jesus called it the kingdom of God.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
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