I am surrounded by a beauty that can never belong to me. But this generates within me an unspeakable reverence for the holiness of created things, for they are pure and perfect and belong to God and are mirrors of his beauty. He is mirrored in it all…
Years ago when I was music director at a Bible camp, we sang a folk song called “Have You Seen Jesus, My Lord?” Written by John Fischer around 1970, it was sung long into the 80’s in churches, too, was even a well-loved song used in many Christian renewal movements such as Cursillo and Lay Witness Mission. The song makes the point that we see the very face of Christ when we can finally learn to recognize him in another person. That is not dissimilar to concepts Jesus taught, after all. And in the very same way, we see the ‘face’ of God in what God has created, and the old song spoke of that as well.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk. Trappists are known for their commitment to silence in daily practice, a habit difficult to understand in our wordy culture. (They're also known for their beer!) Yet Merton’s choice to speak through his writing was not a violation of his vows, but one encouraged by his superiors. An activist and prolific writer, he was also a thoughtful observer of nature, finding sustained solace in the forest environs of his home, the Abbey of our Lady of Gethsemani in Bardstown, Kentucky. As a result, he often wove contemplation on the natural world into his writing, speaking and teaching. If I recall correctly, I got this quote from a collection of his nature writings called When the Trees Say Nothing.
Indeed, God is mirrored in all God has made. Most profound of all, we are made in God’s very image – able also to love beauty, and be creative, loving, resourceful, powerful and wise.
In the Bible translation known as The Message, Romans 1:20 states it this way:
The basic reality of God is plain enough: open your eyes, and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such cannot see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of God’s divine being…
So whether it’s the songwriter, the Bible or Thomas Merton, there is no doubt in my mind: they all get it correctly.
~~RGM, May 15, 2015