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The Spiritual Means, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

14- Contemplating on Nature

  

The first verse in the Holy Bible that refers to contemplation is what was said about our father Isaac, the son of Abraham: And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening (Gen 24:63). May be that introduces us to another type of contemplation: which is contemplating on nature.

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It is not just contemplating on the beauty of nature but more on what it offers from spiritualities, according to the saying of the Psalmist: The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork (Ps 19:1). And here we progress from nature to the greatness of God, its Creator, or to the love of God who cares for it. Listen to the poet singing:

Here is nature let us stop, O traveller...

So I may show you the wonders of the Creator.

In the past, they used to study astronomy at the Theological College because of its wonderful, accurate system that proves the existence of an Almighty Creator. Even one of the philosophers gave Him the title: the Greatest Architect...

If the materialistic heaven, (i.e. the universe) is a great field for contemplation, how much more is the Heaven, which is Gods throne (Mt 5:34).

How beautiful is what St John the Beloved saw in the Book of Revelation, especially when he said: I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven (Rev 4:1). Add to that what he described about the Heavenly Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God with people (Rev 21)..

Contemplating on heaven and on the heavenly no doubt elevates ones mind and heart much above the level of the substance and material things..

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Contemplating on heaven also involves contemplation on the angels...

St-Takla.org Image: Coptic monks praying the Holy daily Midnight Praise (El Tasbeha) - Photograph by Michael Ghaly for St-Takla.org, 2007 صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: راهبان أقباط (رهبان) يصليان صلاة تسبحة نصف الليل، التسبحة - تصوير مايكل غالي لـ: موقع الأنبا تكلا هيمانوت، 2007

St-Takla.org Image: Coptic monks praying the Holy daily Midnight Praise (El Tasbeha) - Photograph by Michael Ghaly for St-Takla.org, 2007

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: راهبان أقباط (رهبان) يصليان صلاة تسبحة نصف الليل، التسبحة - تصوير مايكل غالي لـ: موقع الأنبا تكلا هيمانوت، 2007

And on all the Heavenly Hosts: consisting of the Cherubim and the Seraphim, the Lordships and the Powers, the angels and the archangels, the multitude of thousands and ten thousands that are before the Divine Throne, and the angels that are: Ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation (Heb 1:14). What is the nature of these angels? What is their spirituality, their holiness, their love and their obedience? (Psalms 103, 104) What is their service for God and for the people? What would our relationship with them be like in eternity? And what are their stories that are mentioned in the Bible and in the lives of the saints..? Here the thoughts float in a spiritual realm...

If this type of contemplation is deep for us..

Let us contemplate on the spirits of the saints who have departed.. As the Lord told us about our Father Abraham and Lazarus the beggar being in his bosom. We contemplate here either on the saints who are in Paradise with God (Lk 23:43) or those sent by God to do services on earth such as the Virgin St Mary, St George and others. And the levels of all these, and how one star differs from another star in glory (1 Cor 15:41)...

Then what about the resurrection, and the spiritual, celestial, and heavenly bodies? (1 Cor 15:42-50). And what about eternity and the forthcoming glory, the Kingdom, the levels of saints and their relationships and the Kingdom prepared for us in the everlasting delight.

If we cannot do this, let us come back down to earth and contemplate on the creation that surrounds us, as the Lord said: Consider the lilies of the field.. look at the birds of the air (Mt 6:28,26). God does not mean sensuous contemplation concerning their beauty, multiple colours, aroma and co-ordination., as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. But their elevation over the senses, to God who created them as such that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of them.. Contemplation here leads to Gods wonderful care for all His creations. It also leads to faith, concerning Gods care and depending on Him without feeling anxiety...

If we contemplate on the great difference between natural flowers and the artificial ones we will find that, no matter how much man masters their making, they remain with no life, no aroma and no growth. Even their colours could never compare to the natural ones, and this proves Gods wonderful might. The same thing applies to the birds of the air in their multiple kinds, shapes and tune of voice, characteristics, travels and contentment.. You put next to that the Psalms saying: Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped (Ps 124:7).

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Truly how kind is God: He gives to the beast its food, and to the young ravens that cry (Ps 147:9).

The Lord even says: Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; and God feeds them (Lk 12:24). Yes, the black ravens that some consider as a bad omen.. God gives such care to them. He even assigns them tasks:

ravens used to feed Elijah during the famine (1 Kings 17:6) . And other ravens used to bring food to St Paul the Hermit.. God sends them to His saints and they obey and know how to carry out Gods will. And here you progress a few steps in your thinking, to a level deeper than the shallow thought during reading...

Gods relationship with animals and birds is a long topic, but now, however, is not the time to talk about it, and contemplating on it is a longer topic...

But God gave us the opportunity to contemplate on even the small insects, so the Bible said: Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise (Prov 6:6).

Truly, I have never seen in my life one ant that does nothing... It is continuously moving, continuously working, it never stops. Groups of ants give an amazing lesson in co-operation for whoever contemplates on their group work, carrying things that equal ten times their size. It is also a lesson in discipline, as they always walk in a long queue towards a fixed target. They have amazing communication with each other.

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As we learn lessons from contemplating on ants, we also learn from contemplating on bees.

Ahmed Shawky wrote a poem about bees where he said: A planned Kingdom - by a commanding woman.

Who takes the control - among workers and skilled labourers.

I wonder for workers - who appoint a Caesar to rule them.

The astonishing system under which lives the kingdom of bees is another field for deep contemplation... How God created the bee with such abilities and capacities... How it collects the nectar and makes it honey. How it makes food for the queens! How it builds amazing and well designed hives. How it flies far away in search of flowers and nectar! How wonderful! And what a wonderful Creator!!

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The spiritual person is capable of making everything a field for contemplation. He is also capable of extracting spiritual lessons from the materials.

I remember that I once published in the book "Words of Spiritual Benefit" a contemplation on spiritual lessons that we can derive from the River Nile. And also from the mere soft drops of water which, if they continuously fall on rock, shall engrave it... Also the banks of a river and how they do not limit its freedom but protect it from spilling.So are God's commandments and the guidance of the fathers. They do not limit one's freedom but protect him from doing wrong.

Likewise the human body is a wide field for contemplation, giving evidence to the greatness of the Creator.

It is enough to contemplate on the abilities of each member of the body and the science of physiology. For example, the brain with all its amazing centres for sight, hearing, movement and speech. If the blood does not reach any of these centres, its job stops and the person becomes disabled..

The same with the heart, which is the size of one's fist, but it is a very precise system that one's life depends on as it also depends on the brain. We will be short of time if we talk about all the systems of the human body and how they work harmoniously in an amazing balance. If any of these systems are damaged, not even all the scientific progress in the world would be able to return them to their natural condition...

Therefore in the Theological Colleges they studied medicine and astronomy to deepen their faith in the ability of God, the Creator...

If these are the abilities of the body according to the creation of God the Almighty, what would the contemplations on the abilities of the spirit be?! But I would like to leave this point now to talk about another subject which is:


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