The Mountains

Delphi Contrast

Early in the morning while the air was still cool we walked along the path that overhangs the side of the mountain and looked on as the sun began to lift the wispy morning fog out of the atmosphere. The mountains in the distance became more and more clear as we wound our way through the various grassy nooks that provided the foundations for ancient Greek constructions. As we snaked our way up, the temples became bigger and more marvelous. The Theater of Dionysus is carved into the stone, fairly high, on the side of the mountain and overlooks the entire mountain range. In this theater, the world is the backdrop. Even further is the gymnasium, which was created for the display of the great potential of the human body.

Only half way up I could lean over the edge to look down and barely see the tops of the trees in the wide valley below. Already I could gaze out and see the layers and layers of mountains, one after another, until they were so far away that they faded into a faint foggy blueness in the distance. If I looked directly up, I could see harsh red and grey rocky peaks peering over the top of the mountain I was currently on. Those tallest and closest to me were caked in thick, white snow. The gentle breeze around me carried the sunlight with it and made golden all it touched.

I created all the mountains and the earth, and yet I still felt the need to create you, and I love you more than all of this.

And yet as I stared out onto these great, majestic creations, I was surrounded by an outburst of flowers. White, yellow, purple, and pink delicacies sprinkled the bright green grass. As I walked by a field of yellow, I could hear the single hum of hundreds of bees doing their daily work. In other parts, birds sang out and butterflies danced in the air, stopping for an occasional rest on a stone or clover. The stark contrast between the greatness of the mountains and the delicate little flowers was a true mark of beauty.

I created all the flowers, the birds, the insects, and all the earth. Yet, I created you, and I love you more.

I understand why people would want to worship here. We understood it so well that we hiked all the way to the top of one of the highest mountains and celebrated Mass outside overlooking the mountain range and the sunset. I’ve never seen so many rich, vibrant colors at once.

DSC_0631

Delphi, Greece

 

I created all the mountains, flowers, sunset, and all the earth, and yet I still felt the need to create you, and I love you more than all of this.

I can’t grip it. Christ died for you and me, not for the mountains. He took the form of a man, not a flower, bird, or bee. It is humans that are marked as the crown of creation, nothing more. He created all of this, and yet, still He loves us more.

Advertisements

Up

Assisi is the most peaceful and beautiful place I’ve ever been to.

The climb up to St. Francis’ hermitage was steep. It took us an hour to trek what was barely a mile. The thought of St. Francis hiking the trail on the regular was enough energy for me.

The little cave we were climbing to could be what one would call a “thinking spot”. The man would go up there to get away from the hustle of city life and pray about what it was God wanted him to do. He agonized about whether he was called to be a hermit to pray for the people or to be with them, helping them and loving them in the person. I don’t think he ever actually figured this out.

Is this not such a human issue?  His struggle is so much our struggle, especially that of a near-graduating college student. I’ve felt that anxiety of not knowing what I’m going to do with my life. I could so vividly imagine the man lying on the cold floor of his little cave and begging God for some sort of answer about what to do and when to do it, falling asleep there, in silent contemplation.

But the hermitage, it turns out, was only half up the mountain. It was obvious to us that St. Francis would have continued to climb it, as far as he could, loving all the beauty of nature around him as he went.

So we did too. Passed “Trail for Experts Only” sign. Over the chest-high stone wall. Weaving up the mountain, we went on up, step by step, until our thighs were numb and the air was too thin to get a good breath. Up. St. Francis would have kept going.

We reached a barbed-wire fence just below the peak of the mountain and walked alongside it until we found an opening.

16711633_1906945579524411_9077705932879649423_n

 The beauty surpassed what could have ever come through in a lens.

The final stretch was the hardest of all. The climb was so steep we had to dig our hands into the rocky dirt to level ourselves, and the though the distance was short, our lungs ached for a break in the exhausting activity. But we continued; up.

The top was absolutely beautiful. Patches of snow were scattered across the peaks. Horses grazed on the hill across the valley. We could see the entire city of Assisi and all the calm and peacefulness that was so recognizable in the quaint little town was there even more so on top of this mountain. The sun was beginning to set over the town and all it’s marvelous colors were being delicately painted across the sky.

Assisi, your beauty and peacefulness are unfathomable.

 

A Room with a View

Before I went to Rome someone told me that in the additional comments on the Roommate Request Form if wrote “A room with a view”, something might become of that.

They were right.

dsc_0035-2

They say that on a clear day you can see the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. 

 

I’d like to take a minute to capture my current awe at how absolutely wonderful I feel like I am being treated here and how, strangely enough, we are only experiencing what seems to be a standard of Italian culture.

The food served in the Mensa is cooked by a loving Italian couple and is absolutely delicious- all sorts of pan, pasta, meat and vegetables. I’ve only been here a week and have already been treated to two of some of the finest standard Italian 5 course meals and authentic Italian wine. And the coffee… anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love coffee, and let me tell you, this is good stuff… dare I say it challenges Costa Rican cafe?

Our campus is on a working vineyard and has a small section of olive trees in the back. Unfortunately the grapes don’t bloom until the Fall, but it’s still a nice place to run. I can hear roosters crow, birds chirping, and dogs gossiping. There is a well recently excavated  that dates back about 2,000 years. Rumors say it could be the one that Peter and Paul met at as they traveled through Rome.

As I sit here and write this, I silently gaze out the wide open window as the breeze pushes itself through the frame every now and then. It’s nice. I feel good.

Welcome to Due Santi.

The Good Creatures

11223725_1207335522613976_1836377243918589435_o

I met a puppy in the mountains of Monte Verde. There he was, just sitting there on a step, looking at the world around him in a kind of contemplative gaze. He had curiosity in his eyes, but remained still. The puppy’s feet were caked in dirt, yet his thick fur wasn’t matted. It was clear the soft and silent creature had adapted to such an environment; he didn’t belong to anyone here. This pup was a roamer of the rainy green mountain jungle. And, of course, just like all puppies, if not more, he was really, really cute.

Animals are some of the only creatures we are able to love completely and indiscriminately, something we have such a hard time doing with each other. We love these creatures for what they are and what they are not. Perhaps our dominion over and likeness to such creatures is reflective of God’s dominion over us: we watch them make silly decisions, run around in circles, get a mouthful of dirt or poo or roll in the trash or whatever, but at the end of the day we are always given what it is we need and are a part of a ceaseless and forgiving love.

A passionate bishop in the 2nd century, Gregory of Nyssa worked on merging the truths of science and the truths of  faith. One of his main areas of focus was the study of animals and their relation to man. Good ol’ Greg’s argument is essentially that animals are created for the good of humans. It is the ox that tills the land, the sheep wool that keeps us warm, the alligator skin that protects us in battle, the wood of the tree that creates our ships and houses. Humans have a deeply-rooted dependency on animals and nature in order to survive and, in turn, for animals to serve their purpose to God.

Now, there should be something bothering you about this argument here.

If humans are created to be so dependent on animals, then why are they no longer a part of our everyday lives? The only creatures I regularly come into contact with is my dog, the birds, squirrels, and the melancholy farm cows I pass while connecting the dots between Texas and Oklahoma via I-35.

But maybe this is a part of the problem. It is no secret that we are not exactly taking the best care of our precious Earth. I think we all know that regressing back to the pre-industrial revolution is not the solution; technological and mechanical innovation is natural and good for human progress and development. But, I will dare to say that the solution probably lies beyond the easy recycling or the designation of reserves to keep our greedy, grimy hands off of  certain parts of God’s green earth. If animals and the environment were created to serve humans, are we not depriving them of their purpose by only widening the gap between our everyday lives and the great outdoors?

Is this perhaps why we are so willing to trash our oceans, pollute or skies, slaughter thousands of animals a day just to sustain our everyday lives, because we lack the understanding (or acknowledgement) that such a creation is created for us, and, in turn, we are responsible for it? 

What if we made an effort to integrate ourselves within environment again? Is it possible to maintain a symbiotic relationship between ourselves and the natural world around us? How difficult it would be to create such a relationship again.

I loved this puppy in Monte Verde.  I loved this puppy because he was a puppy and it was almost unnatural for me not to. I loved this puppy because he was a living creature. I loved this puppy because he was simple, he was unique, and he was good.

If Gregory was right, then does our abuse of what was created for us reflect how we believe God looks after us? How do you believe that God loves you?

I’m still thinking about this.

Peace.

Mud

Cafe Cristiana

This house is dark. It is nice for sleeping or watching movies but the lazy residue of those who live here fog up the windows and let little to no sunlight in. It is quiet. It is sullen. It is a beast with missing potential, only dripping what is left of the dry remains onto the carpet, staining it in soft, silent argument. The slow death of action and thought cling to the walls like dust waiting to be drawn in.

Why is it that we go to beaches, climb mountains, slip into the cool bonds of a free-flowing river in order to find our greatest sense of peace? Why do we awe in the beauty of the sunset, the promise of the dawn, the feel of the cool, wet mud beneath or feet?

Imagine squishing your feet around in this mud. Do you feel the chunks of clay, the rough outline of a leaf brush against your toes, a worm wiggle under the arch of your foot? Is it a thick, heavy mud, or is it creamy, the product of a recent rain? Is it a dark, almost black or does it gleam a rusty red? Is your mud warm and gentle or is does it have a biting chill? Let it slosh up onto your ankles. Roll up your jeans if you’re wearing them; perhaps allow a hand to slide into the slippery concoction to feel it just a bit more.

In Costa Rica we visited Cafe Cristina, an all-natural coffee farm where everything is cultivated on the land. Every bit of what would be considered “waste” is part of an intricate process in which the elements in the air and a wild combination of worms and beetles break down the extra grass, suffocating weeds, fall brush, and rotting seeds and turned into a compost that carries more nutrients than any man-made fertilizer. This compost in turn is used for the growth of new plants and trees. The natural process is cost-effective, cuts down on the amount toxins emitted into the air, land, and water, and significantly reduces the amount of waste the farm produces. The whole thing is more than a respect for nature, it is a connection to it.

Perhaps this draw is due to the simple fact that we are created from such nature.

Earth was created from the debris of gasses and dust that were left over from the formation of the sun, which in turn collided to form comets and asteroids. Over millions of years these collisions began to form planets. Water began to show up as the earliest volcanoes ejected mass amounts of steam, and, nearly 3 billion years ago, new underwater bacteria used a combination of this water, carbon dioxide, and the sun’s energy to create an energy of its own- photosynthesis. This established oxygen in the oceans and atmosphere, allowing for life to develop into the complex form that it is today.

Life began with dust. Life began when God took this dust and breathed into it the breath of life (Gen. 2:7).  And, just like the mud we loved to slosh around in when we were young or the beautiful mountains that take our breath away or the mysterious jungle floor that is painted with hundreds of thousands of living creatures, we are created from the dust of the ground, and this dust is good. We are Good.

There is a reason we go outside to rest and find peace. It is in this wilderness that we find home, that we find ourselves, and, ultimately, that we find God.