God in Nature

Pope Francis Apostolic Exhortation, "Laudate Deum", was published on 4th October. A good time to read Fr. Fabio Ciardi's blog (2/10/23) on Chiara Lubich's understanding of Nature

Psalm 19 sings, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (…) They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world”. Creation, with its very existence, reveals God’s existence, his beauty. Saint Angela of Foligno (13th century) says that she saw in the fullness of God “the whole world, that is, beyond the sea, on this side the sea and the abyss and the sea and the rest”. Then “the soul, full of admiration, cried out saying: ‘This world is full of God’… sensing the presence of God who filled everything”. One day Saint Gemma Galgani (19th century) saw “a light of immense splendour that penetrates everything and, at the same time, gives life to and animates everything”. It made her exclaim: “I see my God and all creatures in him”. This is not only the experience of mystics, but also of many scientists, the experience that many of us have had at one time or another.

Chiara Lubich described how when she was still a young teacher, walking along an avenue of horse chestnut trees “all in bloom, beautiful, pink in colour, I saw one of those flowers, as if alive, coming towards me: I thought of the presence of God who was in it. This then (…) became a general experience: that is, I could see God beneath all nature, the plants, the stars…”.

A few years later, in the summer of 1949, a similar and even stronger experience: “I had the impression of perceiving, perhaps through a special grace from God, the presence of God beneath things. So if the pine trees were bathed in the sun, if the streams flowed glittering in their waterfalls, if the daisies and other flowers and the sky were celebrating the summer, even stronger than all of this was the vision of a sun that was beneath all creation. I think, in a certain way, I saw God supporting, holding everything up.”

Chiara enjoyed nature in several places in the world. For example, on 18th April, 1964, in Recife, Brazil, she wrote: “Here nature seems to sing its loudest, as the maximum expression of beauty and abundance”. Or on 13th March , 1967 in Switzerland: “Everything is beautiful here. Everything is “nature”. Lakes, mountains, meadows, woods. Sparkling sun or pure white snow or storms or hail, … I don’t know why, everything here is so beautiful and so lovable.”

On 22nd January, 1987, in one of the Link Up Conference Calls, she said: “Contemplating the immensity of the universe, the extraordinary beauty and power of nature, I spontaneously went back to the Creator of everything and had a new understanding of the immensity of God. (…) I saw that He is so great …  that it seemed impossible to me that he had thought of us.”

The following year, she invited us to seek God “especially where nature reveals him to us”. She said that even if we are in a built up city, “a glimpse of blue sky  between the tops of skyscrapers is enough to remind us of God; a ray of sunshine is enough, it can even penetrate even between the bars of a prison; a flower, a meadow, the face of a child is enough… (…) This is what we must do: love God for himself in his immensity, in his infinity, in his beauty, in his splendour, in his omnipotence…” .

Towards the end of her life, looking back, Chiara had the impression of having completed a kind of  arc. Her spirituality is entirely cantered on the love that led her to grasp the presence of God within herself, in others, in unity… At that point, almost at the end of her life-journey, God reappeared in creation. She wrote in her diary of 26th April, 2001:

“I have always said that I did not reach God through nature, but through inner life where I found him through love. Now it seems to me that I have traced an arc: from God within me, to God among us, to God in the Church; in a certain way, from God in universal brotherhood to God in creation and in the cosmos. Recently, I have looked outside myself at nature: the splendid sky, nature in bloom, that infinite breadth that the skies open up with the sun, the stars… And I sensed that it was not Chiara of the past who was looking, but today’s Chiara, who had followed that arc. Through my eyes she looked with me or rather in me at something very beautiful, delicate, warm, safe: love. Maybe it was God. Everything was filled with his presence. I understood why you can come to believe in God just by looking at nature. I thought: we, human beings,  did certainly not do all this. There was One then (…) One greater than the cosmos… It was God. And I would like to return from time to time to look at nature because it coincides with seeing the Creator and adoring him and being certain of Him, and […] and that one day we will meet Him”.

http://fabiociardi.blogspot.com/2023/10/credere-in-dio-guardando-la-natura.html Draft translation.