Theological Imaginings: Contemplative Seeing
Mary Katherine Doyle rsm (Americas)
“Blessed are your eyes, because they see;” (Matt: 13:16). It is a gift to see beyond the first level of sight, to see beyond appearances into the heart of what is perceived. Contemplative seeing does that. It leads us beyond the surface into meaning. It moves us into the revelatory moment of sight. It is the experience of living sacramentality.
I learned this truth from a tree standing deep within an ancient Sequoia Grove. At first glance the tree was unremarkable, battered and beaten by hundreds of winters, scarred by searing lightening. But it stood, straight and tall, offering its word to generations of visitors.
As I gazed upon this ancient tree, I began to see more than a burnt Sequoia. I saw the scars of chainsaws where, inexplicably, humans had skinned this tree once called the Mother of the Forest. Section after section was stripped away, leaving the tree unprotected from the elements, from predator and flame. This proud tree had offered its silent hymn of praise to God since the middle ages. Each day it reflected the beauty of simply being. Each day it gave a window into God’s grandeur. It was 1854 when men cut away the Sequoia’s bark. They wanted to prove to the world that such massive trees existed. They took the bark and reconstructed the tree at an exposition in London. The act was greeted with awe and horror; awe at the wonder of God’s creation, horror that such beauty would be so violated. The outrage forced the grove to be protected by law. The violation of one tree led to the preservation of the grove for centuries to come. The Mother of the Forest surrendered her protection, surrendered her life but gave life to other trees. It was renamed the Sacrificial Tree.
The Sequoias are more than trees inspiring wonder. They are living parables. They are born through fire. Their seeds will not burst forth from their cones without fire’s touch…
Spanish translation by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. Traducción al español por las Hermanas de la Misericordia de las Américas
Mary Katherine Doyle rsm is a Sister of Mercy trained in history and spirituality. She received a MA in Educational Administration from USF and a MA in Liturgical Studies from St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN. She has served as Director of Mercy Center Auburn, Director of Faith Formation, Diocese of Sacramento and Novitiate Minister for the US Novitiate. A Mercy historian, she has published Like a Tree by Running Water, the Story of Mary Baptist Russell, California’s First Sister of Mercy and is writing the history of California’s Mercy Community in Sacramento.
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