Beauty and Grace



A 4th century liturgy speaks to contemporary concerns, particularly our attention to the health of the created world around us. It helps us see that we have more than an ethical motivation for our interest in respecting the ordered patterns we find in nature. Our flourishing, and that of other living things, also depends upon how nature mediates grace, and how the Creator infuses the whole world with divine presence.

The opening paragraphs of this prayer express the mystery of God’s transcendence and immanence. First, God’s transcendence: “It is truly right to glorify you, … for you alone are God, living and true, dwelling in light inaccessible from before time and for ever.” Next, God’s immanent presence: “Fountain of life and source of all goodness, you made all things and fill them with your blessing; you created them to rejoice in the splendor of your radiance.”

Discerning the beauty of God’s presence throughout creation is part of our our calling as human beings who are made in the divine image and likeness. Naming God’s presence, and helping others see it, also number among our vocational tasks. “Joining with [the countless throngs of angels who stand before God], and giving voice to every creature under heaven,” we acclaim our Lord, and glorify his Name.

The song we sing with the angels, in every eucharistic prayer, echoes Isaiah’s words in the Temple, and the seer John, in his Revelation: “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory…”

Because the earth is full of God’s glory, we are in a position to notice and celebrate its reality. By doing so, we give voice to every creature under heaven, and especially to creatures unable to speak or recognize how the whole world mediates the Creator’s grace. For “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.” *

As long as we remember that God is both utterly beyond and absolutely near, it is appropriate to associate the beauty of this world with God’s mediated presence. When we are moved to praise the glory of nature, we should always remember to sing praise of her Creator and sustainer.


The evocative photo of the Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon, is by William Woodward, and is reproduced here under “Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial.” Visit his website at Also, see Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8; *and Romans 1:19-20. Eucharistic Prayer D, in the Book of Common Prayer, is based upon the Liturgy of St Basil.

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