Earlier this week, in the early evening, I stepped out of my office and looked up to see the sun glowing behind the mountains (see picture, right). It was an interrupting beauty, instantly transporting me from lesser concerns.
But as I lingered and adored, I fell into a state that Wordsworth describes as "that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts / Bring sad thoughts to the mind."
The sun and mountains made me think of the typhoon, and I thought, How can such beauty coexist with such terror? How do I appreciate a nature at once so glorious and so ravenous?
As I turned from the view and walked across our silent campus, I began to hear words from a meditation by Fr. John Kavanaugh, S.J. In January of 2005, in this magazine, in a column titled "The Ocean of Life," Fr. Kavanaugh wrote:
If we do not want tidal waves or volcanoes, I guess we cannot want this earth, its atmosphere, its eruptions, its churning tectonic plates, its generative gasses, its mighty mountains and oceans, so awesome and dreadful. If we do not want children of flesh and blood, who can so suddenly and shockingly lose a hand or who have lungs that choke in water, I wonder whether we could even have a human body, its caresses charged with tenderness or its lungs to breathe and sing. I don’t know. But I believe this is the world God made, terrible and awesome, so lovely and lethal.
So lovely and so lethal. That was the poetry I pondered driving home. That was the poetry that made me think: this is a world of the wood of the cross.