Nature as extravagant gift from God

The following four poets/pray-ers express awe and gratitude for God’s bountiful heart as conveyed through nature, a gift given freely to everyone—new every morning. Each attributes to God an exceeding liberality, even prodigality (wastefulness), in such daily bestowals, which, as the Brazilian Catholic archbishop Hélder Pessoa Câmara (1909–1999) suggests below, ought to inform our own giving.

Sluijters, Jan_October Sun, Laren
Jan Sluijters (Dutch, 1881–1957), October Sun, Laren, 1910. Oil on canvas, 48.3 × 52.7 cm. Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands. Photo: Victoria Emily Jones.

Untitled poem by Emily Dickinson

As if I asked a common Alms—
And in my wondering hand
A Stranger pressed a Kingdom,
And I, bewildered, stand—
As if I asked the Orient
Had it for me a Morn—
And it should lift its purple Dikes,
And shatter Me with Dawn!

Written in 1858; source: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. Thomas H. Johnson (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1955)

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Untitled poem by George MacDonald

Gloriously wasteful, O my Lord, art thou!
Sunset faints after sunset into the night,
Splendorously dying from thy window-sill—
For ever. Sad our poverty doth bow
Before the riches of thy making might:
Sweep from thy space thy systems at thy will—
In thee the sun sets every sunset still.

Source: A Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul (self-pub., 1880)

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“The Excesses of God” by Robinson Jeffers

Is it not by his high superfluousness we know
Our God? For to equal a need
Is natural, animal, mineral: but to fling
Rainbows over the rain
And beauty above the moon, and secret rainbows
On the domes of deep sea-shells,
And make the necessary embrace of breeding
Beautiful also as fire,
Not even the weeds to multiply without blossom
Nor the birds without music:
There is the great humaneness at the heart of things,
The extravagant kindness, the fountain
Humanity can understand, and would flow likewise
If power and desire were perch-mates.

Source: Be Angry at the Sun and Other Poems (New York: Random House, 1941)

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Untitled prayer by Hélder Pessoa Câmara, OFS

Lord,
isn’t your creation wasteful?
Fruits never equal
the seedlings’ abundance.
Springs scatter water.
The sun gives out
enormous light.
May your bounty teach me
greatness of heart.
May your magnificence
stop me being mean.
Seeing you a prodigal
and open-handed giver,
let me give unstintingly
like a king’s child,
like God’s own. 

Source: The Hodder Book of Christian Prayers, compiled by Tony Castle (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1986)

2 thoughts on “Nature as extravagant gift from God

  1. Thanks Victoria, beautiful post. Also just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying your posts generally! I had your September music playlist going all last month and now getting into the October one. Thanks from here in Wellington, NZ.

    Like

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