You all know that I can’t get enough of nature these days.
When it comes to spiritual practice, nature serves as an icon—a window to the Divine—offering respite from the chaotic world both without and within as well as ancient wisdom for my soul. (Think about it—the trees, wind, rocks, and rain have been doing their thing far longer than I’ve been doing mine!)
As with my love for the liturgical seasons, I particularly admire nature and its elements for the invitations they offer in my everyday life. The Celtic Christians would agree, and the practice of seeking inspiration from the elements is something we’ve explored each time I’ve gone on pilgrimage to Ireland with Christine Valters Paintner of Abbey of the Arts (I participated in a journey last year and co-facilitated one for young adults this past March).
You don’t have to travel to Ireland to find inspiration and invitations from nature like the ancient Celtic Christians. In celebration of Earth Day, here are some quotes, prayers, and practices for each element pulled from Christine’s book, Water, Wind, Earth, and Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements, as well as my own invitations:
“May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has, streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke
What flows naturally in your life? What impedes its flowing?
“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.
So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Ride in your car with the windows down or sit in silence for a period of time, simply focusing on the power of your breath.
How has the Spirit moved like wind in your own journey? In which direction is the mysterious wind of the Spirit moving you now?
“Deep peace of the quiet earth to you, who,
herself unmoving, harbors movements
and facilitates the life of ten thousand creatures,
while resting contented, stable, tranquil.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you!
Plant a seed and watch with wonder as it sprouts or walk barefoot through the grass.
What makes you feel grounded like the roots of a tree? What nourishes you beneath the surface so that you might live life to the fullest?
“I’m the secret fire in everything, and everything smells like Me.
The living breathe My sweet perfume, and they breath out of praise of Me.
They never die because I am their life.
I flame out—intense, godly life—over the shining fields of corn,
I glow in the shimmer of the fire’s embers,
I burn in the sun and the moon and the stars.
The secret Life of Me breathes in the wind and holds all things together soulfully.
This is God’s voice.”
-Hildegard of Bingen
Light a candle and watch its gentle flicker or spread out a blanket in your backyard or local park and gaze at the stars.
What are the passions that burn within you? What can you do to continue to stoke the flame?
PS: More posts on Celtic Spirituality. Plus, Christine will share with us about her new book, The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey within, next week!