The Outdoor Chapel
But ask the animals, and 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 all 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. (Job 12:7-10)
A number of people, through the years, have asked me to describe Celtic Christianity. That is difficult, especially in a short period of time. There are just so many interesting and meaningful aspects to this special form of faith. Carl McColman, in his book, “An Invitation to Celtic Wisdom,” offers a description of a unique aspect of this faith. “...Like so many different types of churches, Celtic Christianity is like an outdoor chapel.” “....Trees function as the pillars of the cathedral and the overarching sky serves as the ceiling, far above the grassy floor below.” “...Nature is the cathedral, the wilderness is the basilica, and a lovely garden is our neighborhood church.”
I share this, not so you can begin communing with nature, rather than attending a local congregation. A local congregation has benefits that this aspect of Celtic expression cannot provide. I am sharing this, so when your soul is in need, and your regular expressions of faith are not speaking to you, expressing faith in God’s creation could bring another level of depth to your relationship with God.
This doesn’t mean you scrap church and move a group into the woods for all your worship expressions. For the Celts, this experience in creation was an opportunity for contemplation. McColman says it, “...is a type of Christian mediation, [is] a simple act of resting in silence before the mystery of God.” Meditation in nature helps bind us intimately to God’s holy creative activity. In this way, nature becomes another “thin place.”
Take some time, even in this cold weather, to take a walk. It doesn’t have to be a long walk. A walk around the block in cold weather, with crisp air, will make you feel alive. As you breathe in, feel the Spirit of God move from your nose, down into your lungs. Imagine the Spirit moving from your lungs, extending out through your limbs, and throughout your body. As you do this, intentionally focus on the trees along your route. Listen for a dog barking, or children laughing. Even if it is quiet, listen for the rustle of the wind. As a thin place, God will find a way to speak to you on your walk through God’s cathedral. When you listen, God will speak to you and guide your way forward in the hours and days to come.