One evening in 1971, at the age of twenty-two, I sat down with a friend who showed me...(with a twinkle in his eye as I recall)... a colorplate reproduction in an art history book. It was a photo of a manuscript illumination from “The Book of Kells” created by Celtic monks around 800 AD.
I was astounded and quite literally awestruck at what I saw.
At that moment, I distinctly remember wondering and asking myself a series of questions....
”What on earth could possess a human being to create such a marvelous and intricate image?”
“How on earth could such intensity of purpose and profound dedication, sacrifice and love find expression like this?”
“Why?” I wondered....”Why?”
“What in Heaven's Name is going on here!?”
And then, of course, it dawned me. The answer to my “What?” to my “How?” and to my “Why?” was a Who.
Lord, have mercy.
That night was a revelation for me, and a seed was sown in my heart.
Someone once said that the natural universe, the creation around us, is “...a kind of corporeal and visible Gospel.” I believe that is true.
Nearly 2000 years ago the Apostle Paul wrote:
“For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities---his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse. “ (Romans 1: 20)
Likewise I am convinced that the natural universe that we encounter with our senses may be understood as God's “primer”...a first edition prologue text of a magnificent and dramatic story unfolding before us. And the “prologue of nature” beckons to every human heart and soul just as surely as the ancient manuscript illuminations invited the reader to enter the Sacred Texts.
I believe the 12th century Christian mystic, Richard of St. Victor, was right when he wrote “The whole of this sensible world is like a book written by the finger of God”. If that is indeed true, then perhaps we ought to sincerely and earnestly seek knowledge of this world's Author and Creator not only through the “word” of nature's pages (what theologians call “general revelation”), but also seek to know Him in and through the verbally communicated Holy Scriptures, the prophetic spoken Word, what theologians refer to as “special revelation”....The Bible.
I am persuaded that we are daily being invited to read beyond the elegantly complex and beautifully written Divine Prologue of Nature. We are freely encouraged to press on to discover “the rest of the story”, the special revelation....the Greatest Story Ever Told.
“ In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning... “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1: 1,2...14) .
“....the eternal light is proclaimed to the world in two ways, namely, Scripture and Creation.....[The]... first step in climbing the heights of virtue is the letter of Holy Scripture and the appearance of visible things, so that, once the letter has been read and creation examined, they may ascend, by the steps of correct reason, to the spirit of the letter and the rationality of creation.” ---John Scotus of Erigena (9th C)
Below are more images from the Book of Kells
“Without Excuse Creation”
(Love Letter Declaration)
Father help us read your message
In the forest and the trees;
Help us take note in the margins
When we feel Your gentle breeze.
Dear Lord, help us read the pages
Of Your Manuscript at night
When we wonder at the Heavens
And Eternal endless Light.
This Creation Letter's written
From your Heart and from your Mind;
May we not dismiss Your Missive...
Help us read between the lines.
Please illuminate The Story
You've spelled out before our eyes...
If we're hiding in the Garden,
Strip away our thin disguise.
Your “Without Excuse Creation”
Speaks to every human soul.
Draw us into Your Narration...
Tell us how Your plot unfolds..
Help us move beyond The Prologue
Help us turn another page....
Walk us through that Gate of Glory
To the Kingdom's Coming Age.