When beauty touches our lives, the moment becomes luminous. These grace-moments are gifts that surprise us. When we look beyond the moment to our life journey, perhaps we can choose a new rhythm of journeying which would be more conscious of beauty and more open to inviting her to disclose herself to us in all the situations we travel through. John O’Donohue
This morning beauty touched my life with luminous moments at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha.
My spiritual formation is that of St Ignatius Loyola – Ignatian spirituality, that has its roots in the conviction that God is active, personal, and—above all—present to us. We don’t have to withdraw from the world into a quiet place in order to find God. God’s footprints can be found everywhere—in our work and our relationships, in our family and friends, in our sorrows and joys, in the sublime beauty of nature and in the mundane details of our daily lives. It’s often said that Ignatian spirituality trains us to “find God in all things.”
At the heart of my involvement in this spirituality is Christian Life Community (CLC), a lay organisation whose specific source of spirituality is the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. And so today, I gathered with CLC friends at Mt Coot-tha for a meditation walk – a search for God’s footprints. It was a time to open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts. We were invited to sharpen our awareness and delight in God’s creation. Our scripture for reflection was Job 12:7-10
Ask the beasts they will teach you;
the birds of the air and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth
and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing.
And the breath of every human being.
And so my journey began: past the lizard, waiting, unafraid of my approaching footsteps; dipping under the amazing web of two golden orb-weaver spiders; and past the magpie with its beautiful call. Then a visit to the fern house and a stroll through the arid region plants and the cacti and bromeliad house.
Then finally I reached my destination – the Japanese Garden. A feature of World Expo 88, it was created here at Mt Coot-tha as a generous and lasting gift from Japan.
The Japanese feel the ideal garden should represent nature and only by the gardener’s skilful ability to observe nature is he able to arrange his materials, stone, trees and water to create a garden that soothes and refreshes the human spirit. This garden has been designed in the tsuki-yama-chisen style of mountain, pond and stream.
Central to Ignatian spirituality is the practice of contemplative prayer and noticing.
When I am very still in a place without words, steeped in silence, when the world is elsewhere with its noise and motion, what sacred hungers are inside me?
As I sat quietly, I took notice of the textures, the tones and the sounds of this garden. The water tumbling over the rocks, the bird calls, the distant laughter of children. John O’Donohue writes that to become attentive to beauty, we need to rediscover the art of reverence, a word we now seldom use. The idea of reverence is filled with riches that we need, now more than ever. According to O’Donohue, human beings should dwell on this earth with reverence and at its heart the journey of each life is a pilgrimage through unforeseen sacred places that enlarge and enrich the soul.
In his encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis stresses the importance of the interior life and spirituality in our quest to protect our environment. So I sat in silent reverence, in the presence of the sacred, and contemplated the beauty and wonder of creation.