I spent the day hunting for fossils in upstate New York. Fossil collecting is a hobby of mine and New York State is a good place to do it. Much of the rock you find along road cuts was once at the bottom of a warm tropical sea about 400 million years ago or so. Lots of the critters – trilobites, brachiopods and coral in particular – who lived in that sea have left their remains in the rocks.
Of course, the fossils are great educational tools that reveal a significant amount about the immensely ancient history of life on the planet. And some pieces take on such extraordinary colors or are so finely preserved as to be quite beautiful. Collecting fossils is also a wonderful way to enjoy the beauty of nature and the companionship of others who share the same passion.
Most importantly of all for me, however, is the sacramental experience of collecting fossils. In the general sense , something can be considered sacramental if it mediates for you an encounter with the transcendent. A sacramental experience is one that makes you absolutely aware that you are in the presence of something much greater than yourself. When I break open that rock to find a creature which has not seen the light of day in millions of years and yet which formed another link in that same chain of being in which I share, I am often breathless.
It is this awareness that I am connected to a great Mystery that is at the core of my joy.
What’s a sacramental moment for you?