Saturday, May 21, 2011

How nature can be a marvelous ladder that leads us to heaven

The contemplation of the marvelous things that God created in nature, when seen in the proper prism and unselfishly, is a ladder that leads one to Heaven.

Saint Bonaventure says:

All creatures of this sensible world lead the mind of the one contemplating and attaining wisdom to the eternal God; for they are shadows, echoes, and pictures, the traces, simulacra, and reflections of that First Principle.

In other words, each creature can be compared to a note that God has written and left for us to read so that we may get to know what He is like.

Just imagine -- here and there, everywhere I go, when I look out and see the nature that God has made, I can see and read His notes. Even the little ant reflects God in some way.  And he has a message for me.

By creating such a variety and multitude of creatures, God as if speaks to me through them. The more perfect the creature, the more if reflects God. The more elevated the message.

For example, when we think of some creatures, they make us think of God immediately and in a more direct manner. If we hear a gigantic clap of thunder we think of God’s wrath. That association of ideas is quite direct and immediate. It does not take a step by step process of reasoning to reach the idea of God’s wrath from the thunder clap.

However, other creatures do not speak to us so directly of God. They speak to us of higher values that eventually lead us to the contemplation of God if we use them to transcend to Him. That takes some mental and contemplative work, but it is well worth it.

Again, Saint Bonaventure:

We go from the visible to the invisible by God’s very design of us and created things. The creatures of this visible world signify the invisible things of God... for every creature is by its very nature some kind of image and likeness of the eternal Wisdom.

To continue to illustrate this point, let us take the example of a swan that we see gliding calmly and smoothly across a beautiful lake. The swan propels itself by paddling hard with its webbed feet under the water’s surface, but we do not see its strenuous efforts, nor does its efforts disrupt it serene aspect.

The beautiful bird maintains its poise and noble bearing amidst the more practical and prosaic work of moving about, feeding and cleaning itself.

After watching and pondering the swan’s activities for a while, we may reach the conclusion that the swan represents somehow the virtue of elegance. Suddenly, the abstract concept of elegance is made very real and visible for us in the swan.

In turn, if one feel inspired to take this thought process about the virtue of elegance one step higher, one could call to mind an especially refined princess from the Ancien Regime. Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, for example. She has been referred to as the “swan of the human race.” This is because she somehow embodied and represented in an eminent manner the virtue of elegance.

But this thought process of transcending from the swan to Marie Antoinette can still reach a higher metaphysical altitude if one imagines how the angel of elegance would be like. And to further refine the notion of elegance, one can consider that, above this angel, is the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is God’s masterpiece, the peak of all created beings as far as grace is concerned. And in her, the virtue of elegance is of such a high state of perfection that it does the soul good to simply to contemplate what she is like, from the perspective of elegance.

Finally, infinitely superior to all creation, there is God. He is elegance Itself. How marvelous! – how poor is our vocabulary to describe Him. Yet He wants us to try our very best to get to know Him.

He gave us nature so that through our contemplation of it, we may get on the ladder of transcendence that eventually leads to Heaven.

This is one very effective manner to apply what we learned in the catechism that we were created to know, love and serve God.

(This illustration was made by Marek Szczepanek.  Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.)

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