The other day, I encountered a lovely passage from the writings of Pelagius, a gifted but often sorely misrepresented early British theologian:

 

Look to the animals roaming the forest: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the birds flying across the sky: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the tiny insects crawling in the grass: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the fish in the river and sea: God’s spirit dwells within them. There is no creature on earth in whom God is absent…. When God pronounced that his creation was good, it was not only that his hand had fashioned every creature; it was that his breath had brought every creature to life. Look too at the great trees of the forest; look at the wildflowers and the grass in the fields; look even at your crops. God’s spirit is present within all plants as well. The presence of God’s spirit in all living things is what makes them beautiful; and if we look with God’s eyes, nothing on the earth is ugly.[1]

 

Pelagius’ theology—echoing the greater Celtic Christian tradition of which it is a part—expresses a deep reverence for the innate goodness of God’s created universe. This emphasis on the goodness of Creation got Pelagius in trouble with some of his detractors, but I find it to be deeply life-giving. Here is an incarnational worldview fully realized: The presence of God is a part of who we are as creatures of God. Nothing can separate us from that abundant Life and Love, in whom we live, move, and have our being, and in whom all things hold together. To “look with God’s eyes” is to perceive God’s presence and experience it as a fundamental truth of our being alive.

 

I receive endless opportunities every day to look at the world with God’s eyes, but I usually fail to harness them. I become too caught up in self-centered anxieties about my academic responsibilities, or my physical appearance, or my personal stigmas. Consequently, my gaze turns inward, and I become insular and disconnected: unaware of the spirit of God permeating the life all around me—in particular, the human life all around me.

 

I wonder, how would I change if I internalized the reality of the above passage, and actually lived into it? How would my daily strolls around Cambridge as a Harvard student be transfigured if I remembered to seek God in all living things, and to look at Creation with God’s eyes?

 

I pray that, through the grace of our Creator, my eyes may be opened a little more every day to the glory of God’s abounding presence in the world. For now, all I can do is offer a reminder to myself inspired by the writing of my brother-in-Christ, Pelagius:

 

Look at the people all around you as you traverse campus and Harvard square: God’s spirit dwells within them—all of them. The rich people and the poor people: God’s spirit dwells within them. The straight people and the queer people: God’s spirit dwells within them. The cisgender people and the transgender people and the gender-nonconforming people: God’s spirit dwells within them. The white people and the people of color: God’s spirit dwells within them. The Christian people and the people of other faiths and the people of no faith at all: God’s spirit dwells within them. The homeless people you ignore every day as you walk to class: God’s spirit dwells within them. The hurting people, the smiling people, the sleeping people, the starving people: God’s spirit dwells within them. The people you agree with, and the people whose ideas infuriate you: God’s spirit dwells within them. The people you love, and the people you abhor: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look too at the pigeons and the rats: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the blades of grass thrusting up through sidewalk cracks: God’s spirit dwells within them as well. It is the very nature of created life to be a dwelling place for God, and from this divine indwelling springs a beauty that shines resplendently in all living things. If you look with God’s eyes, you will see that nothing on the earth is ugly. You will see that every living being is a beloved child of God.

 

Holy Spirit, open my eyes to the beauty of your world. Help me to glimpse your goodness in all living creatures. Help me to encounter you in every member of the human family, both in those who are similar to me and in those who are very different. Help me to love them all with the love of Christ Jesus. Help me to look at Creation, and all its inhabitants, with your eyes.

[1] J. Philip Newell, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality (Paulist Press: New York, 1997), pp. 10-11.

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Aidan Stoddart ’21 is a sophomore in Eliot House.

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