The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures you let me graze;
to safe waters you lead me;
you restore my strength.
You guide me along the right path
for the sake of your name.
“The best things in life are free.” so the saying goes… and here in Washington it’s true! Among the most primordial examples is Rock Creek Park, recently featured in the Washington Post Magazine (13 July 2014) as the “wild heart” of our city. The park overflows with opportunities for personal renewal and growth. Whether it’s a good trail run on its miles of woodland paths, a pensive horseback ride through arbored scenery or time spent at picnic and play, Rock Creek Park is place to better encounter ourselves and God.
Gaudium et spes (para. 22) speaks beautifully about how man, peering into Christ discovers his own best self. One could also add that staring into the best parts of each other… we human beings observe sparks of the divine, the latent image and likeness of our Creator. The result of this mutual study between us and God is re-creation… itself the origin of our term “recreation”. It’s the whole reason we have parks like Rock Creek: places set apart from the hustle and bustle of the world where we can stop looking at other things and just contemplate ourselves and our Creator. To experience this point in a an overt way, one of my favorite Rock Creek pastimes is biking the length of Beech Drive listening to Haydn’s “Creation.” A sumptuous oratorio setting the first chapters of Genesis and other creation-related Scriptures to music, the “Creation” raises the ordinary exercise of a Rock Creek bike ride into a religious experience.
Another faith-dimension to places like Rock Creek is their gratuitousness. In Washington we’re blessed to benefit from numerous free public institutions. The nature of these sites, whether the monuments, or jazz in the NGA Sculpture Garden, or Rock Creek park or anywhere else… is to be free gifts that the people of our country have given to each other. Sometimes these gifts come from the will of individuals. Andrew Melon, for example, donated the nucleus of the National Gallery collection. Other times these gifts are organized by the collective will of our nation, as is the case with the national parks. In all cases these institutions were given as a free offering for the flourishing of our fellow citizens. In this, our free public institutions participate in God’s own free gift of creation. How blessed are we as to see the nation’s capital, our home, not only as a monument to human striving but indeed as a place where God’s own virtues can take flesh in us to make us a little more like him.
See “Touring Tips” for more info on visiting the park and beyond.
Now ask the beasts to teach you,
and the birds of the air to tell you;
Or the reptiles on earth to instruct you,
and the fish of the sea to inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of God hand of God has done this.”