Earlier this week I made time to shabbat, to “cease” my non-stop life and attend to the immediate, the present, the here and now, in order to look at all God has made and say with Him, “Very good.”
After watching the sunrise with a stiff east wind caressing my face, and driving my daughters to play practice, I went to a local bookstore to read one of my favorite books.
For 2 hours.
20,000 different species of butterfly. Flowers in flight refracting divine de-light.
For me they have always been sacraments of beauty’s protest, gracefully yielding against the unyielding, rebellious, predatory designs of as-yet unredeemed nature. Icons of the glory to be revealed, per Romans 8:18-30. They transform from caterpillars who steal and destroy to live, into butterflies who feed only on what is freely offered to them and, by pollinating, give back the gift of new life.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed [metamorphoumetha] into his likeness from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18)
I remember as a child watching a blue jay eat a still-fluttering sulphur butterfly on the sidewalk, swallowing the body and leaving on the ground two perfect yellow wings. Lifeless beauty laid on a concrete sepulcher. I recall being profoundly sad, but only sitting still, as if waiting for something unexpected to happen. Beneath the crush of violence, beauty still gently smiled. How could God not act? I sat and looked, wondering if there would be a heaven for butterflies. There to live again, soaring their immortal protest.
To God they soar, I’m certain of it, as “He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to him.”
When I am discouraged, weary, disheartened, disillusioned, I pull out my book and remember: Butterflies are. Like the Seraphim, existing there only to sing with colors the splendor of divine Beauty.
After I left the bookstore, I went to visit the levee. They were everywhere, dancing in the sky under the brilliant sun, skipping from flower to flower. And I remembered my mom reading to me Trina Paulus’ Hope for the Flowers when I was small. If you recall, the caterpillar exclaimed with hope,
“We can fly!
We can become butterflies!
There’s nothing at the top
and it doesn’t matter!”
As he heard his own
message he realized how
he had misread the instinct
to get high.
To get to the “top” he
must fly, not climb.
I flew in praise! Praise, that most ‘useless’ of prayers, without a ‘why’ other than to declare Beauty’s endangered appearing. Thank you, O God, for deeming the risk worthwhile, for us and for our salvation.
Glory to Thee, bringing from the depth of the earth an endless variety of colors, tastes and scents
Glory to Thee for the warmth and tenderness of the world of nature
Glory to Thee for the numberless creatures around us
Glory to Thee for the depths of Thy wisdom, the whole world a living sign of it
Glory to Thee; on my knees, I kiss the traces of Thine unseen hand
Glory to Thee, enlightening us with the clearness of eternal life
Glory to Thee for the hope of the unutterable, imperishable beauty of immortality
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age — Glory to God for All Things