God's beautiful homeland

The theology of the Bible is implied in the natural landscape of the Holy Land, and comes alive in ways I had not expected until I was there seeing it, feeling it.

By Chris Sparks

The supreme adventure is being born. There we do walk suddenly into a splendid and startling trap. There we do see something of which we have not dreamed before. Our father and mother do lie in wait for us and leap out on us, like brigands from a bush. Our uncle is a surprise. Our aunt is, in the beautiful common expression, a bolt from the blue. When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world that we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale 
— G. K. Chesterton, Heretics, XIV: “On Certain Modern Writers and the Institution of the Family.”

He chose to have a home, and a homeland.

He chose to be from a particular place, to live and die among a certain people, of whom He was a part.

Jesus chose in a way not given to any of the rest of us to choose, and because He chose, we have the hope of everlasting life.

A lovely land
The Holy Land is beautiful. The mountains, the hills, the rivers and lakes, the places where people have lived for thousands upon thousands of years — how unexpected it is that God Almighty will come down from Heaven to dwell as one of us, among us, and yet seeing the natural beauty of the area, you understand that God blessed His Chosen People with a lovely land, and chose Himself to take up a body and a human existence in a region that showcased the wonders of His creative artistry.

When Jesus taught, then, the backdrop was beauty, was splendor. There are high places, but they’re not the enormity of the volcanoes of Washington State, or the peaks in Colorado. There’s a happy harmony of water, land, and sky where people would choose to live, the sort of environment that is both firmly earthly and also wide open to the heavens. 

The theology of the Bible is implied in the natural landscape of the Holy Land, and comes alive in ways I had not expected until I was there seeing it, feeling it.

A world with God
The Holy Land is an icon of a world with God above in His Heavens, and a world dependent on God sustaining life, a world where the rains that fall are felt and seen as a true divine gift, and the waters below are lovely in good weather, treacherous and destructive in bad. In those valleys, floods would be catastrophic to anything in the lowlands, and being high up, closer to God, would spare you.

But too much sun, the heavenly drawing near to earth, and the world becomes harsh, arid, dry. To get close to God is to go into the desert, is to endure the dangers and temptations beneath the brightest sunlight or the most intense starlight. Perhaps once upon a time all was in harmony, and one would walk with God in the cool of the evening, beneath fruit bearing trees. Now, though, the world is weakened, and to be close to God demands dying to self, denying oneself, surrendering the earthly for the sake of the heavenly.

Icon of the soul
The whole of the Holy Land is an icon of the soul in relationship to God. One can discern in the gardens and the deserts of the Holy Land all stages of salvation history: the pre-fallen world and the fallen world, and some hint of the glories to come, when nature is renewed, transfigured, when God is all in all, such that the lights of the heavens shine to and through all things, not just in the desert places where nature has died, giving way to supernature, to grace. 

Someday, all shall be in harmony. The ways of God shall be made straight before His coming, and the land accommodate His presence without rebellion, with falling apart as He draws near. Someday, the world shall be His home again, and we shall be at home with Him, God willing.

So ask the Lord to teach you to love His creation as He loves it. Ask Him to help you walk in it as He walked in it. Let Him teach you the ways of the world He made; He is a better teacher than the sins or the darkness of the present age. Gaze upon the artistry of the Supreme Artist, and learn from it about its maker. And remember that the best is yet to come.

I went across the garden one afternoon and stopped on the shore of the lake; I stood there for a long time, contemplating my surroundings. Suddenly, I saw the Lord Jesus near me, and He graciously said to me, All this I created for you, My spouse; and know that all this beauty is nothing compared to what I have prepared for you in eternity (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 158).

Photo by Brian Kairuz on Unsplash


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