Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 27, 2004
Hear the songs all nature sings
Daily meditations on nature see the world through the cross and resurrection
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Bathed in prayer and the amber hue from a solitary candle, Bob Jacobson jotted down his early morning reflections on the scene and the unseen - of nature and the human soul - daily for nearly 18 months.
Mindful not to wake his wife Carolyn, Jacobson wrote at a desk in their rustic home east of Bashaw, conveying his belief that all facets of creation, from the sun to a blade of grass, are interconnected and best appreciated when contemplating the Sacred Scripture.
The former bishop of the Lutheran Church of Alberta found he had the opportunity to write what has become a 567-page book entitled All Nature Sings as he and Carolyn began a life of lay service in the Catholic Church.
"We can read a lot of books and set them aside, and we might have been moved by them for a week or two," said Jacobson, 64.
"But my idea was to provide a set of meditations that a person can go through and slowly ingest the viewpoint by osmosis and eventually transform his world view to see all things through the cross and the resurrection of Christ."
Jacobson, originally from Milwaukee, was raised in a family whose hearts and eyes were wide open to God's handiwork. His mother was a biology teacher and his father was a chemist and a Lutheran pastor.
Jacobson said he always viewed theology and science as compatible.
"My mother was a strong advocate of biological evolution, but she never saw it as a product of blind forces. There was always some direction from the Creator. Faith told you why and science told you what."
No other creature has an effect on creation anywhere near as great as ours, he said. Humanity can do a lot of damage with a lack of long-term planning.
"God has given us the ability to think long-term and when we fail to do so, we are sub-human."
The focus of the book is on what it means to be the caretakers and stewards of creation. It should be fundamental to a person's spirituality so that it is not merely "something out there," Jacobson said.
Modern creation theologies take little account of the cross, he said, stressing that all of creation needs to be redeemed.
"For Christian people to really buy into this, it has to move from the idea of the intellect to the realm of prayer," Jacobson said.
"It has to become part of how we respond to the whole of life and to God, so that we see nature not detached from God, but included in God. It has to be so much a part of who we are, that we can pray it and be on target."
Jacobson was Lutheran bishop of Alberta for 10 years, shepherding some 200 clergy in 150 parishes, before he and Carolyn entered the Catholic Church during the 2000 Easter Vigil in Ponoka.
Jacobson shared some of his journey to the Catholic faith.
"In about 1990, I realized the decisions Lutherans were making were not converging any longer. Even as a Lutheran pastor and bishop, I was committed to the idea that Lutheranism, as a reforming movement, needed to ultimately return to the fold," he said.
"It can't just survive on its own out there because there are too many things missing.
"The longer I served as bishop, the more I realized that in any form of Protestantism, cut off from the holy father and from the magisterium, you just don't have the ability to hold the ship on course through a gale. It has happened repeatedly in Protestant history."
Since becoming Catholic, the Jacobsons have savoured some of the riches of the Church they were only vaguely aware of before, like the communion of saints. Voids have been filled, he said.
"Protestants left home at the time of Reformation. Carolyn and I saw this as the time to take the journey home. We wish everyone could experience this."
The Jacobsons enjoy an active life of lay service at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Bashaw.
Carolyn plays the organ during Mass, teaches catechism and helps produce the bulletin.
Bob recently taught the ALPHA course to 50 people from five denominations. He leads a weekly Marian study and once a month, he takes his turn as liturgy supervisor.
"We are most grateful for the understanding and love of the Lutheran people in our community," Carolyn said. "They have been just wonderful."
The book provides for a year-long journey guided by the Book of Genesis. A person can begin at any time, not necessarily on Jan. 1.
Jacobson's intent was to write a book that was intellectually sound, but not only for intellectuals.
Each week starts with creation and goes to new creation, but passes through the cross to get there. Jacobson has chosen creatures of God and uses the Scripture to affirm his intention.
Jacobson's understanding of nature reveals how elementally similar humans are to all living things. The difference, he said, is that people have a soul.
"It has to become part of how we respond to the whole of life and to God, so that we see nature not detached from God, but included in God."
- Bob Jacobson
Sun and moon
"I wanted to show how the sun and moon become symbolic of other things in the spiritual world. The sun becomes the source of graces that is God. The Blessed Mother is clothed in the sun. It is the radiance.
"And then the sun hides itself at the crucifixion, becoming a symbol of shame in the face of what God is doing. The moon becomes a footstool for the Blessed Mother."
One theme is drawn from Scripture relating to the natural world, which dominates the meditations for an entire week from Monday to the following Sunday.
Each day's reflection begins with a passage based on the theme for the week. The meditation that follows can be savoured. The reader can return to the passage and then offer a prayer.
"It was a great adventure for me to take this approach. I'd sit and choose texts for the weeks and for each day."
Once Jacobson determined he had enough to write a book, it was "more fun than a picnic" piecing it together.
He wrote entirely by hand. A friend's daughter typed a draft copy onto a computer disc for Jacobson, who revised it twice.
He sent it to a couple of publishers, receiving the usual rejections. However, the Franciscan Press in Illinois eventually agreed to publish the book.
"They said it was exactly what they want," Jacobson said. "They were excited about the book and they were extremely helpful."
The Franciscans also chose the cover art - a forest teeming with nature and a partial medieval structure in the upper-left corner.
"You see that the human intrusion is very subtle, without disturbing the natural harmonies in the forest. My mother chose the title. It's a hymn - All Nature Sings."
Jacobson, a scholar fluent in several languages, says he was deeply inspired by Carolyn and his mother.
"I awoke around 3 a.m. and spent an hour with the translation, then an hour or more with the content of the meditation. I was usually done with one meditation by breakfast," he said.
Jacobson considers writing the book the right thing to do coming out of the stresses of an active life. He took long nature walks on their rolling quarter section.
"It was a perfect place to do it. God has given us many graces here."
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