I will never hide the fact that I’m a real fan of nature, and even with my own training in science and biology, it still thrills me to watch all the life around whilst out on a simple walk. My own Christian faith has an unashamed slant towards the Celtic and therefore has a simple love of nature and seeing the Creator’s hand at work.
Earlier in the year you may have seen the sulphur coloured brimstone butterflies darting around the hedgerows. Near to where I live, there is a lengthly buckthorn hedge; conveniently the food-plant favoured by the caterpillars of the Brimstone. So at this time of year, I make pilgrimage there, to see if I can spot any young caterpillars – I was in luck…
I spent some time in simple silence watching these creatures going about their business amongst the leaves. I became aware of the great hive of activity amongst the branches of the hedge. There were the caterpillars methodically munching on the leaves. Then there were ants tending a small herd of aphids, ‘milking’ them for the sweet honeydew they produce. The aphids were in turn drinking from the sweet sap from the new shoots on the buckthorn. And then there was an approaching ladybird larva with an insatiable appetite for aphids…
The scene got me thinking…
As I breathe out, part of that breath will be absorbed by the buckthorn tree, and through the miracle of photosynthesis, it will be converted into sugars and cellulose, upon which the caterpillar was now feeding. The same sugars were being siphoned off by the aphids, harvested by the ant, and possibly about to be converted into a new ladybird.
And so through my breath, there, in that simple scene, I had become connected to all the life in front of me; the brimstone butterfly, the caterpillar, the buckthorn, the ant, the aphid and the ladybird. A real sharing moment of wonder – in communion with nature.
It reminded me of a encounter I had had many years before…
I remember asking an old monastic mentor what the Communion meant to him. He simply hummed to himself briefly, then stood up and left the room. He was a man of great wisdom but more often than not, a man of few words and cryptic ones at that… Not quite sure what I was meant to do, I sat still. Thankfully I did not have to wait long as he soon returned from the kitchen with an apple. It had a piece of twig still attached to it and its appearance was a little dull.
“What is Communion?”. He picked up the apple, removed the twig and proceeded to polish it on his habit. The apple was transformed. Beautiful colour, a lustrous shine… perfection. He then went on to explain about the history of the apple as a fruit, the variety that we were looking at, and expanded on the health benefits and calorific value of the apple. Then of course expounded on its wonderful juice – especially when fermented… He concluded by saying, “…and we could go on admiring it’s completeness and perfection all day…”.
“Now… I could do the same and talk about the Eucharist – BUT… I’m afraid I’m not going to…“.
Then without warning, he stood up, snatched the apple from the table and started to leave the room muttering “…however…”
I then heard a satisfying “crunch” as he took a large bite out of it. He casually walked off, opened the door, and as he left the room he shouted out;
“Now the apple is part of me!!”.
So, as we move into the summer season and everything starts to grow at an accelerated rate, I hope you can enjoy many, many ‘communions’ with our Creator; be it spiritual, physical, mental, theological, liturgical, or a combination of all of these things.