Paradoxes in an Ancient Landscape: What a Welsh Mountain Taught Me about God & the World
By Mark Clavier
In this, our first series, Mark Clavier, residentiary canon at Brecon Cathedral and backpacker, takes listeners on an overnight journey up Cadair Idris, a mountain in west Wales, where he reflects on faith, ecology, heritage, and hiking.
In the final episode of Paradoxes in an Ancient Landscape, Mark considers what it means to inhabit paradoxes. Introducing the Welsh ideas of hiraeth (longing) and tangnefedd (peace), he identifies living within the paradoxes of our faith with the Sabbath rest where our hearts can settle and we discover our true home.
The paradoxes encountered on Cadair Idris offer a timely lesson about a central feature of the Christian faith: that God created seemingly opposing things--heaven and earth, sun and moon, land and water, man and woman--to share in a kind of nuptial unity. Paradoxes compel us to understanding difference in terms not of opposition but of marriage joined together by the delight God takes in everything he has created.
As Mark returns home from Cadair Idris, he considers how all the wonders he had seen consisted of the most commonplace materials: water, earth, air, and fire. Natural wonders always consist of ordinary things and costs the earth nothing, unlike our own attempts a creating marvels. This episode concludes with a reflection on the Eucharist in which the wonder of Christ's presence is found in the ordinary substances of bread and wine.
As Mark heads down Cadair Idris and back to civilization, he reflects on the ordinary and the commonplace. Despite our thirst for wonders and extraordinary experiences, it's actually in the everyday and commonplace that we grow and flourish. Christ's own life as an ordinary craftsman teaches us to be content with our commonplace lives and to embrace both stability and humility.
Mark finally makes it to the summit of Cadair Idris and takes in the amazing views all around them. Reflecting on the nature of wonder, he argues that our world needs to rediscover a "sense of wonder" in order to escape loneliness and our incessant need to tinker with creation.
Cadair Idris is a mountain of myths and legends: the chair of the giant Idris Gawr and the hunting grounds of Gwyn ap Nudd's hounds. Mark considers how words inscribed into landscapes become explosive, shaping us in fundamental ways.
What’s more silent than a mountain on a still night? Mark ponders the silence he experienced as he sat by his tent in Cwm Cau on Cadair Idris and what it tells us about our own inner silence and the silence we know as God.