Can nature be more rarified than in a rainbow? Earth donates water droplets. Sunlight supplies the rest. A rainbow is the most ethereal element of God’s creation. Small wonder it was chosen to be the sign of God’s covenant. In the presence of water, light is reflected, refracted, dispersed. Water is transfigured into something radiant.
The rainbow becomes an Old Testament sacrament: God’s providence and promise imprinted upon the material world. God will never again rise against creation.
A covenant is a promise. It can only be made between those who are free. God is freedom itself. God is giving; God simply is. And humanity? Because God endows us with freedom, we are that part of creation that can enter into covenant with God. All of creation fulfills God’s will, but we alone choose whether or not to do so.
Creation comes without seams. The spirit and the flesh of our person both issue forth from God. One is not less sacred than the other. In the human, the material world becomes sentient, responsive and responsible. We are nature in love with its creator.
Just as Catholicism is the most sacramental of faiths, believing—in our creation, and preeminently in the Incarnation of the Son of God—that the material becomes the womb of the spiritual, it should also be foremost in defense of the environment.
When the modern mind declared its independence, it severed its ties to God, to nature, even to other persons. Each became something measured by the mind, rather than reverenced by the heart. The world became an instrument, a hammer in our hands, rather than the shelter of our souls.
In Christ, creation again becomes whole. The despoilment of sin gives way to the delight of union.
In Christ, human freedom rejects the autonomy of the individual and embraces creation. Satan suffers, while angels and beasts find common cause in the creator now come as savior.
Lent opens us to the resurrection of Christ, and the eventual glorification of the cosmos. In fasting, prayer and charity we return to the font, where water is quickened with grace. The material is not supplanted; it is suffused with spirit.
This Lent might we not abstain from abusing the environment? Might we not pray for an awakening of the sacred in the material? Might we not actively begin to repair in love what sin has despoiled?
In the rainbow, God is pledged. Let it ever remind us to respond.
Genesis 9: 8-15 1 Peter 3: 18-22 Mark 1: 12-15