Dear Open and Relational Theologian,
No contemplation of any kind is possible without nepsis or watchfulness. I cannot contemplate either nature or God without learning to be present where I am, gathered together at this present moment, in this present place. Stop, look and listen. Such is the first beginning of contemplation. The contemplation of nature commences when I open my eyes, literally and spiritually, and start to notice the world around myself—to notice the real world, that is to say, God's world.
The contemplative is the one who, like Moses before the Burning Bush (Exod. 3:5), takes off his shoes—that is, strips himself of the deadness of familiarity and boredom—and who then recognizes that the place where he is standing is holy ground. To contemplate nature is to become aware of the dimensions of sacred space and sacred time. The contemplation of nature has two correlative aspects. First, it means appreciating the “thusness” or “thisness” of particular things, persons and moments. We are to see each stone, each leaf, each blade of grass, each frog, each human face, for what it truly is, in all the distinctness and intensity of its specific being. As the prophet Zechariah warns us, we are not to “despise the day of small things” (4:10). “True mysticism”, says Olivier Clément, “is to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary.” No existing thing is paltry or despicable, for as God's handiwork each has its unique place in the created order.
Secondly, the contemplation of nature means that we see all things, persons and moments as signs and sacraments of God. In our spiritual vision we are not only to see each thing in sharp relief, standing out in all the brilliance of its specific being, but we are also to see each thing as transparent: in and through each created thing we are to discern the Creator. Discovering the uniqueness of each thing, we discover also how each points beyond itself to him who made it. So we learn, in Henry Suso's words, to see the inward in the outward: “He who can see the inward in the outward, to him the inward is more inward than to him who can only see the inward in the inward.” (Kallistos, Bishop of Diokleia . The Orthodox Way . St Vladimir's Seminary Press. Kindle Edition.)