“And Would We Be Dumb!”

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you.” –Job 12:7

The Irish monk Columbanus once said, “If you wish to know the Creator, come to know his creatures.”  Meister Eckhart echoed this thought when he wrote, “Every creature is a word of God and a book about God.”  Other Christians over the centuries have made similar claims.  There is this belief that since God made all the other creatures that inhabit this world, we should be open to the fact that He might have something He would like to teach us through them.

After noting in his volume, The Book of Creation, that Eriugena claimed every creature “can be called a theophany” or manifestation of God, Philip Newell goes on to write: “This is not to say that what is shown in a creature is the essence of God, for God is essentially unknowable.  Rather, what is manifested is an expression of God’s essence.”  Newell adds to this, “God, therefore, is not simply in every creature but is the essence of every creature.  At heart, creation—including our creatureliness—is a showing forth of the mystery of God.”   In everything that God has made we can perceive something of God’s nature and goodness.

In the passage from the Book of Job noted above we are reminded that the animals and birds that surround us can, in fact, teach us about God and His ways.  In order for us to learn from them we must first be humble enough to acknowledge that we do not know it all and that their existence may unlock some of the mysteries of God for us.  Once we have taken that first step we must go on to be good students.  This means learning all we can about the creatures God has made and paying close attention to those we have the privilege of seeing.  By being open to their instruction and through careful observation we may well be able to unlock some of “the mystery of God.”

In the Carmina Gadelica, a collection of hymns and prayers from the Celtic tradition, one woman declares, “Every creature on the earth here below and in the ocean beneath and in the air above was giving glory to the great God of the creatures and the worlds…and would we be dumb!”  One of the things we can learn from our fellow creatures is the necessity of giving glory to the God of Creation.  The animals and birds around us are constant reminders that we, too, are called to worship God.  If we’re looking for lessons to learn, this might be a very good place to start.


(I took the image of the moose above in Alaska, the raccoon in Kentucky, and the wood duck in California.)