Christian Spirituality and Creation Care
We have all erupted from the same primordial furnace willed by Love -- this is our common origin
We are all stardust and inhabit this planet and cosmos that is very good -- this is our mutual belonging
We all moving towards fullness of love; this is our shared destiny -- "The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been attained by the risen Christ ..." (LS, 83)
We are on a journey of discover - just like the Magi centuries ago.
-John Reilly Miracle Draught John 21:1-14
What a message of hope in a world that seems so lost, so broken. God is a God of miracles and moves among us to feed the hungry, comfort the grieving, and bring justice.
But do we realize how this proclamation of common origin, mutual belonging and shared destiny is also a formidable mandate for people of faith? '
Our planetary family is oppressed due to an alienation from Earth, a lack of ecological literacy, apathy and ignorance of our impacts, greed, and fear. We need to experience a change of heart -- an ecological conversion -- and work tirelessly to care for creation. This is not optional. It is not a nice add on. It is not green washing and something to set aside when another trend comes along. Authentic Christian spirituality moves us from ecological death to new life -- personally, socially, and as a universal family.
This is why we are all gathering tomorrow -- to learn, to listen and to engage as fellow pilgrims on this journey to new life.
As I was creating the last details of our retreat together tomorrow, I was drawn towards Pope Francis' exploration of the Eucharist in Laudato Si'. I have always been drawn to the sacraments. I am fairly extraverted and the sacraments are where I feel so close to God and to others. I have found that in this pandemic I have learned in very visceral ways how my spiritual well-being is connected to the physical community I am a part of. I miss sitting in the pews, smelling incense, shaking hands, embracing friends. I also have thoroughly been thankful for modern technology -- so I can be a part of the Toronto parish (Our Lady of Lourdes) that I spent so much time years ago. Over the internet is a different way to experience the Eucharist -- but it still feeds my soul and ensures that the virus does not infect those that I love in my congregation.
The sacraments and their rituals are 'thin places' where the veil between heaven and Earth is so thin -- so much so that God is present among us on the altar, in the pews, in our hearts.
This idea of thin places is from Celtic spirituality (thank you again John O'Donohue and others!) but I also found similar resonances in Joseph Martos, Doors to the Sacred.
Recall from an earlier blog the idea that if you think that you are walking in a living landscape imbued with the sacred, then your walk will be different. Refresh your spirit with the short clip on the O'Donohue website: LINK
Thin places are spaces in this world where one can meet the Eternal -- the grand landscapes, the small puddles, the grassy knolls, a meal with friends, a chance encounter, a peaceful protest. They are often wild places. Places of energy and enlightenment.
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Thus my Celtic ancestors saw these thin spaces, these spaces of sacramental life, as within and outside the church.
It is important to take time to reflect on your journey into life, into our beautiful and cruciform home to meet God in these thin places in the landscape, around the table, in the people we encounter, in our heart. Do you have time to contemplate this further? I suggest watching "The Way" about the pilgrimage along the Camino-- here is a trailer for the film. The film is about the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) a web of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish) in Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.
In the film watch closely for the thin places -- where and when the protagonist encounters his son or the Spirit moving him to more abundant life. But also time you time with the end of the journey and how they connect the ethereal rituals within the Cathedral and the thin space found on a windswept shore.
We are on a journey to encounter God with our entire planetary and cosmic family -- without ever doing it alone. Perhaps the Magi also knew this and travelled as a group? A journey to encountering God in our world is not a solitary journey. The creative, empowering, liberating Spirit accompanies us across the millennia. And as star dust, our cosmic family is also with us. This is the source and sustenance of our Christian spirituality. As it moved the Magi long ago, so to are we being nudged forward.
Our faith in the Holy Spirit is why creation care is so important. Destroying creation severs the link -- the thin places -- where God awaits. We have no right to take this away from future generations, nor ourselves. But fear not.
We believe that
God the Creator is the ultimate source of everything,
the Son intimately united himself with Earth, and
the Spirit is the creative dynamism and bond of love at the heart of the universe (LS 238)
We are Advent and Easter people -- hope is forever on the horizon because God is with us and never abandons us. God is eternally working to bring life out of death.
Recently, some days have been so dark that hope seems to be snuffed out. But I implore you, look outside your window. Look into the universe -- from the galactic to quantum levels of life over billions of years -- our planetary family is showing us the way...
We can see God's creative, liberating work
in the new blossoms on trees after the harshest winter;
or the birth of a new island after the blistering eruption of a volcano on the seafloor;
or in the lusty brawl of a newborn baby ripe with potential;
or perhaps in an uncomfortable but necessary way of living that is contrary to the status quo; or even the healing discovered after sin.
But if we do not change our ways, we will inhibit Earth and her creativity from glorifying God in this way.
From the Nicene Creed we profess a deep faith in the Holy Spirit:
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
We need to turn to the Giver of Life and allow the Spirit to work through us to attend to the cries of Earth and the Cries of the poor. When we open ourselves, the Spirit will inspire us to care for creation, especially our human brothers and sisters crying out for justice and peace.
“The Holy Spirit can be said to possess an infinite creativity, proper to the divine mind, which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, including the most complex and inscrutable. … The Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and therefore, from the very heart of things, something new can always emerge” (80)
To conclude take time to focus your prayer life on the Eucharist and use the following as your guide:
“It is the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. … The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation chose to reach our intimate depths through fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in the world of ours. … The Eucharist joins heaven and earth: it embraces and penetrates all creation. … in the bread of the Eucharist, “creation is projected toward divinization, toward the holy wedding feast, toward unification with the Creator himself.” (LS, 236)
(Photo of "Homeless Jesus" by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz depicting Jesus as a homeless person, sleeping on a park bench. Located outside my alma Mater, Regis College in Toronto)
Look toward tomorrow.
Ask God to give you flexibility and tenacity for tomorrow’s challenges facing creation and humanity. What activity concerning creation care could you do differently? Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer.
Seek the Holy Spirit, giver of life for guidance as you love and live with your planetary neighbors anew.
Ask God for help and understanding. Pray for hope.
See you tomorrow! Come log on by 8:45am to be ready to be present at 9:00am -- be comfortable, bring your journal and favorite drink. Share some spiritual table fellowship with fellow pilgrims on the way. Learn from each other and from the rich legacy of the Catholic tradition.
Just in case: LINK TO REGISTER -- CLICK HERE