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Earth, Air, Fire, and Water: Great and Yet Terrifying Blessings

October 22, 2015

blog10-22-2015Some of God’s gifts come in strange and terrifying packages. The book of Job says,

The earth, though out of it comes forth bread,
is in fiery upheaval underneath (Job 28:2).

It is a fact that we live just above a fiery cauldron separated from us by a thin membrane of earthly crust rife with cracks through which fire routinely flares in volcanoes in fissures, a crust that is always shifting and even shaking violently in earthquakes.

And yet were it not for this violent cauldron beneath us, it seems unlikely that we would have life here at all. Volcanoes and other tectonic activity keep our soil rich and recycled. In this fiery cauldron are brewed some of our most useful minerals and most beautiful gems. Whole island chains and land masses are formed by eruptions and geothermal energy is a resource we have only just begun to tap. Many scientists think that volcanoes had a profound influence on the formation of an atmosphere in the early Earth period and that the molten core of the earth has an important influence on the Van Allen belt, a magnetic field that keeps the harmful portion of the sun’s radiation away from the earth’s surface.

Yes, Job had it right, some of God’s gifts come strange packages. The earth’s capacity to bring forth bread is directly connected to the fact that it is on fire beneath. And yet what a strange and terrifying package this gift comes in! For volcanoes and other seismic activity have claimed an enormous number of lives and a huge amount of property.

Water, too, such a rich source of life and blessing, can also turn in a moment to utterly destroyed life in huge numbers. Floods and tsunamis can sweep away huge areas in a flash.

And yet who could ever deny that without water life would be impossible? Ah, water, nothing more life-giving and nothing more deadly. Yes, some of God’s gifts come in strange and terrifying packages.

I have often wondered why so many cities throughout the world are built on or near floodplains and along the “ring of fire,” with its volcanoes and fault lines. But of course the answer is plain enough: it is in these very areas that some of the richest soil and the greatest resources are to be found.

God’s and nature’s most life-giving gifts are but a few degrees separated from disaster and instant death. We live on the edge of an abyss because that is where life is found.

Such a thin line, really. Mors et vita duello, conflixere mirando! (Death and life compete in a stupendous conflict!)  To live is to cheat death.

All the basic elements and forces: earth, air, water, and fire are so death-dealing and yet so life-giving; somehow they are all part of the great cycle of living and dying that God intends.

Only God is existence itself; the rest of us are contingent beings and part of a cycle. Only in union with Christ, who said, I am the life, will we ever cheat death. As Fulton Sheen once said, “Christ gave the earth the only serious wound it ever received, the wound of an empty tomb.” And with Christ, and only with Christ, will we one day give the earth that same wound.

For now, we live above the cauldron upon a thin crust; beneath us burns a tremendous fire. But somehow, mysteriously, it is the source of our bread.

The earth, though out of it comes forth bread,
is in fiery upheaval underneath (Job 28:2).

Yes, some of God’s greatest gifts come in strange and terrifying packages.

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  1. lkeebler says:

    Amazing video, amazing place we live by design. I have a little ceramic salt and pepper shaker in the shape of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State which blew in 1980. The whole top of the mountain blew off, enough so that someone decided the before and after pieces of the volcano could resemble a nice salt and pepper shaker. Another subject, it was a real pleasure to see your interview of July 5 with Ralph Martin for Renewal Ministries on YouTube.