Monday, October 14, 2013

My Religion is Nature...My Liturgy is Solitude

I looked in temples, churches and mosques.  I found the Divine within my heart.  - Rumi

   As much as I love the sanctuary of sacred spaces, I have always felt a greater spiritual connection in Nature.   I suppose that is why I am so attracted to Celtic traditions that, before they were brought into the ways of the Roman church, were so entwined with the natural world. For them, and me, Nature is divine presence which is why, when I speak about it in this context, I capitalize the "N". 

   I find great solace in community.  It is so uplifting to share ideas and thoughts and laughter.  I also covet and cling to my solitude. I try to make space for solitude and silence every day and it is very much a part of my spiritual practice along with contemplative photography which is, of course, best practiced alone.  Solitude is my liturgy, the way I practice my religious beliefs.  It is in this apophatic silence that I feel most at home.

Religion is what you do with your solitude. - Archbishop William Temple

   When I am in the landscape I need the silence of solitude to hear the whispered messages.  As vast as it is, the natural world seems like a tiny chapel to me and I sit in reverence for all I experience there.  Every tree a sculpted column supporting a vaulted sky, each small plant and creature an icon, every stone a familiar pew.   Emily Dickinson, as in so many other instances, says it best...

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church --
I keep it, staying at Home --
With a Bobolink for a Chorister --
And an Orchard, for a Dome --

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice --
I just wear my Wings --
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton -- sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman --
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at least --
I'm going, all along.

The wonderful writer, Rev. Dr. J. Philip Newell, explores the nuances of the Celtic faith in his book, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality. It is good introduction to the subject.  He quotes extensively Johannes Scottus Eriugena, the great early Medieval Celtic philosopher who recognized the divinity in all creation.  Human beings are only part of an immense web of life.  Harm one tiny part of it and you harm it all.  The Celts were the first ecologists in this thinking and perhaps the world would be in a better place today had we followed their lead.  

   John Phillip Newell runs the SalvaTerra foundation which you can learn about here.   Below is a link to a soul centering chant produced by SalvaTerra that I particularly love and in today's world, its message is especially wonderful:

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