God has placed us there so that nature will proclaim to us His existence, His greatness, His wisdom and all His exalted qualities”.
The very first chapter of the first book of the Bible — Genesis — describes, as its author imagined it, the story of how creation came into existence in stages. The Bible tells us that God found everything He had created to be Good. And yet, despite creation being ‘good’, the world continues to experience natural catastrophes, like the recent floods in many parts of the world, including India, causing untold damage to crops, property and even loss of life. So the question naturally arises, is the creator to be blamed for such havocs?
Today while some powerful politicians like to deny the reality of climate change caused by relentless ‘development’ and greed, there are scientists who provide incontrovertible evidence saying that it is already too late for the world to realise its negative impact. While science looks at the problem from a practical perspective, it would be inspiring to discover how some holy people, for centuries have found God in nature.
One such saint, whose birthplace I visited last week in Germany and near whose grave I had the privilege of spending a prayerful week was St. Arnold Janssen. Born in 1837, as a young priest, he taught mathematics and science in school. Later he was inspired to found three religious Orders, the first being founded in 1875. In order to promote his work, in 1878 he started a family magazine, called “Stadt Gottes” (City of God) in German, which continues to be in circulation even today. His secretary Fr. Hilger, outlining one of the purposes of the magazine, besides being entertaining, curiously states, was, “to be an instructive magazine for the purpose of spreading useful knowledge, particularly from that exalted ‘temple of God’, which nature is. God has placed us there so that nature will proclaim to us His existence, His greatness, His wisdom and all His exalted qualities”.
Hilger even compared the outlook of Arnold Janssen to Francis of Assisi, who literally considered everything in nature as his brothers and sisters, singing the hymn, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”. For Janssen, “nothing in nature was insignificant, for everything led him to God”, as he “was a friend of the clear spring water… the rushing rivers and the surging sea, a friend of towering mountains, a friend of the stars…”
Currently it is Pope Francis who, particularly through his recent Encyclical, ‘Laudato Si’, has been pushing the agenda of saving, what he calls, “our common home”. Preserving nature was also one of the priorities of a multi-religious group — the Parliament of Religions — that some of us founded in Delhi back in 2007. Thus it is not just in the face of ravaging floods, but on every available occasion that we need to preserve, what Arnold Janssen beautifully describes, ‘the Temple of God’.