Monday, October 31, 2011

Contemplative Photography

3:oopm, this Saturday, Nov. 5th, in Cannon Beach, Oregon, at the Coaster Theater, ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF CANNON BEACH: a nature photo slideshow and solo piano concert, created by Thomas Robinson and David Robinson. This show includes 400 Thomas Robinson nature photos from pre-dawn, sunrise, midday, afternoon, sunset, evening and night. During the photo slideshow, David will play original solo piano mediations on grand piano. 

"Prayers in silence and quiet, of course have their own validity. It is not always necessary to express our prayers out loud. The simplest prayer, perhaps, is that of quiet contemplation. We place ourselves in the presence of the divine. Some pilgrims also find photography an expression of silent contemplation. By looking through the lens and focusing upon some aspect of the landscape or the interior of a grand cathedral, a person comes to new awareness that might be missed by trying to take everything in at a glance. Using a camera, as Thomas Merton discovered on his final pilgrimage to Thailand, can be a form of prayer." ~from "Pilgrimage: Exploring a Great Spiritual Practice", by Edward C. Sellner (Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2004), 145.

Photo: 7 minute exposure of star trails over Haystack Rock

Monday, October 17, 2011


 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. (1)

I've been reading a book by Ian Bradley titled, Pilgrimage: a Spiritual and Cultural Journey (Oxford, England: Lion Hudson plc, 2009). Bradley is a professor of Practical Theology and Church History at the University of St Andrews, specializing in Celtic Christianity, and a leader of regular pilgrimages to such sites as St Andrews, Iona and Lindisfarne. 

Pilgrimage is still only available in hardcover, and is packed with glossy photos of pilgrimage locations across Europe, including Rome, Santiago, St Andrews, Iona, Nidaros, Assisi, Lourdes, Taize, Medugorje and others. 

Bradley offers a variety of definitions of pilgrimage, including these:
  • A departure from daily life on a journey in search of spiritual well-being. 
  • An individual summons to know God more fully, a spiritual journey to which the pilgrim joyfully responds 'yes' to God's invitation.
  • A provisional, transitory state, often taken as a metaphor for the journey of life, hastening irrevocably from the cradle to the grave. It is a reminder that all things in this world are temporary and that everything is in motion.
  • The outer physical journey mirrors the inner spiritual journey; the excitement of setting out on a new adventure is balanced by the joy of coming home. 
The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 includes chapters titled The Biblical Roots of Pilgrimage, Pilgrimage in the Early Church, Celtic Pilgrimage, The Golden Age of Pilgrimage, After the Reformation, Pilgrimage Today, and How to be a Pilgrim. Part 2 leads readers chapter by chapter into specific pilgrimage sites in Italy, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Poland, France, Bosnia-Herzegovinia, and England. Historic details are woven together with practical and personal insights into making your own pilgrimage to such a place. 

Of the sites emphasized by Bradley, I've personally enjoyed spending pilgrimage time in Rome, St Andrews, Iona, Assisi, Taize and Lindisfarne. But one need not get into an airplane and travel across the globe to go on pilgrimage. "Blessed are those whose hearts are set in pilgrimage" the Psalmist tells us. Jesus suffered for us along the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering, "leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps" (2), joining Christ along the way of the cross, day by day, setting our hearts on pilgrimage. Jesus came alongside hurting people along the road to Emmaus, comforting them by opening the Scriptures to them along the way home. Later, these two, reflecting upon their encounter with pilgrim Christ recalled, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" (3)

May you know the joy of journeying with our Lord along the pilgrim way. If possible, sometime in your life, consider turning travel plans into pilgrim plans, and intentionally step out along the way with Christ as your guide, walking along the way, "in his steps".
(1) Psalm 84:5.
(2) 1 Peter 2:21.
(3) Luke 24:32.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Scriptures of the Mountains

Three quotations from John Muir (1838-1914) the great Scottish naturalist, mountaineer:
  • Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. (1)
  • The darkest scriptures of the mountains are illumined with bright passages of love that never fail to make themselves felt when one is alone. (2)
  • I met cassiope (mountain heather) growing in fringes among the battered rocks . . . . Winter and summer, you may hear her voice, the low, sweet melody of her purple bells. No evangel among all the mountain plants speaks Nature's love more plainly than cassiope. Where she dwells, the redemption of coldest solitude is complete. The very rocks and glaciers seem to feel here presence, and become imbued with her own fountain sweetness.
In these three selections of Muir's writings, he reveals a spirituality of nature in which creation becomes an evangelist, a proclaimer of the good news of God, in which creation is to be read as scripture, declaring the glory and truth of God. Nature, in her tiniest details, in her flowers, rivers, lakes, mountains and storms, as well as in her grandeur, all Nature declares the good tidings of God and illumines the nature of God, and even moreso, brings us into the very heart of God, bringing us inner peace, spiritual renewal and soul refreshment through our direct encounter with God's creation.

As Paul declares, "Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made" (Romans 1:20).

1) quoted from "Southern Rocky Mountain Wildflowers", p.7.
2) quoted from John Muir's "Mountaineering Essays
3) quoted from John Muir's "Mountaineering Essays, p. 36-37. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011



A new day beckons hearts awake to sing
   As jeweled dew drops freshen every blade
A flash of flicker-flight on morning wing
   Through Hemlock boughs renews the forest glade.

Eternity arises with the dawn
   In misty shrouded forests by the sea
The sword fern camouflage the sleeping fawn
  Beneath the soaring Cedar canopy.

Awake my soul, your morning anthem raise
   To join the Varied Thrush in Matin’s cry
Leap up my soul, your Recreator praise
   In silent wonder seek him eye to eye.

The darkness fades, behold the new day breaks
As all creation in Christ’s light awakes. 

~a sonnet written by David Robinson