Moment #2 - Spirituality and Creation Care
Openness to the Universe Reveals a Deep Truth: We are Inspirited Stardust
A flash of understanding. A light bulb going off in your mind. Noticing for the first time something that was right in front of you -- these are some of the common ways to understand this term. But for Catholics and other Christians, the Epiphany refers to the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus in the small, incarnate human baby whom Mary had given birth to. It is a feast day celebrated on the first Sunday between Jan 2 and Jan 8th.
What the Church celebrates on the Epiphany is the greater world's flash of understanding that this child is really God! The shepherds in the grassy knoll in Bethlehem were the first to know but then Jesus as the Son of God is revealed to the Magi who have come from the East to adore Him. The lightbulb was that God became inspirited stardust like us because God wanted a deeper relationship with all that God created.
I believe that our lightbulb moment of the Epiphany is different than that for the Magi since we have a different way of seeing the world than they did. Our epiphany is that God is present in this communion of stardust of which we are a part. Thus God, humanity and creation all intimately connected -- this is the truth of the cry of the Magi that God is manifest in the world. I had the pleasure of writing about Stardust and Christian anthropology (the relationship between God, humanity and creation and offer Claire Jeanne Roberte Colinet, Joueuse de Boule (1930) and a tree as examples for us to reimagine our place in the sacred universe -- so if you are interested, here is the link.
We share a common origin, mutual belonging, and shared future with all other specks of inspirited stardust - big or small, present, past or future. Pope Francis perhaps, would agree:
We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal. Pope Francis, Laudato Si' 202.
In our collective mindscape we have forgotten who and whose we are namely, unique manifestations of inspirited stardust within a sacred cosmic communion. It is our amnesia that has led us to destructive behaviors and put our common future in jeopardy and we have diminished our lives of faith with the Creator.
Humanity’s alienation from—and exploitation of—Earth’s landscapes seems to stem from three successive shifts in human mindscapes: a shift from seeing the world as a nurturing mother to seeing her as an untrustworthy, seductive temptress who must be controlled and then, later, as a machine to be exploited for human betterment. Is this a thread you want to follow more? Then check out my early blog "Holy Noticing" (June 18) -- it is important to know how our imaginations have informed our faith lives. It is the first step toward the ecological conversion Pope Francis wishes for all of us.
As I mentioned in my first Jan 1 post, these shifts were not arbitrary; rather, they addressed a deep fear: if we were not the center of the universe, that could mean we were mere specks of matter adrift in an incomprehensible universe that could be both cruel and incredibly fruitful. To fortify our own worth and insulate ourselves from our innate frailty and finitude (which God accepted as he lay swaddled in the manger), we built philosophies, scientific frameworks and religious frameworks that separated us from the rest of creation -- the beasts -- so we could hold tight onto our false dream that we were in control and the only one's worthy of God's love.
But then how do we make sense of God's choice to manifest to the world in a small, frail, finite human body. How do people of faith celebrate the manifestation of God within a cosmic communion? Let's look to the Magi for guidance -- being open to the universe revealed something of the divine to these scientists. For people of faith in the 21st century, the star reveals to our imaginations the innate sacredness of all forms of stardust - big and small.
When the Magi looked into the heavens a star lead them to God. When other human scientists in the past century looked to the heavens, their epiphany was that life emerged from a singular moment of great cosmic exuberance -- primordial furnace so hot that it crafted the elements hydrogen, helium, and lithium. Later, this material formed stars, which gave birth to the elements that would eventually constitute Earth, including the materials that comprise every aspect of our bodies. In the last century, we awakened to a beautiful truth: we are stardust, along with everything around us -- and indeed this is very good.
Pope Francis, in Laudato Si' writes about our alienation from our sacred universe:
An inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology gave rise to a wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world. Often, what was handed on was a Promethean vision of mastery over the world, which gave the impression that the protection of nature was something that only the faint-hearted cared about. Pope Francis, Laudato Si', 116
To value creation care as an intrinsic part of the Catholic faith, your mind must awaken to the sacredness of creation, your heart must reconnect to God's immanence in creation, and your spirit must be reconnect to the Spirit moving over the waters of creation bringing life from death.
In the next few blogs I will be offering moments to reflect, think, pray and ponder -- and sharing some of the people who have guided me in my journey. Today I want you to meet John O'Donohue -- a poet, man of faith, and Celtic mystic.
Opening Yourself to the Universe - A Reflection
But take a moment to open yourself to the universe. What epiphany are you to discover there?
Find a space in creation that allows you to touch and feel that which humanity has not made. Close your eyes. Listen to the sounds around you. Think of the last time when your feet touched fertile ground -- when your hands were not holding plastic or artificial surfaces -- when your eyes looked upward at the night sky -- when your taste buds rejoiced at food that was straight from a backyard garden, gifts of Earth's innate creative process.
Still yourself and breathe.
Open yourself to the universe and intentionally connect your body to this web of life - physically, emotionally, spiritually. Do not be worried if this takes time to quiet your mind, body and spirit -- our world is harried, jarring and ever moving, and this takes time to quiet.
When you settle into your space, here are ways to meditate on the message of the sacred universe.
Can you imagine a time when you spoke of Earth as a subject -- a living, participant in your life’s journey and faith journey? When was that? Why? What changed?
Can you remember moments of utter wonder at the world? When was this? Why? When did this stop? Why?
Take a moment to get to know John O'Donohue (click on this link and start at 0.53sec to get to know the mind, heart and spirit of this poet)
Now come back to your meditation
Picture this poet standing on the Burren in the West of Ireland.
He is speaking in a lovely Irish brogue.
He has a deep, unhurried voice speaking with the lilt of a poet and the rush of the wind in the background at the Cliffs of Moher.
Hear him say...
Allow the Beauty to awaken in you then the beauty will gradually awaken all around you
I think it makes a huge difference in one's life when you leave your house whether you believe you are walking into a location which is simply dead space that you are crossing to get to where you need to go. Or whether you believe that you are walking into the living universe. If you believe the second, then your walk becomes a different thing. John O'Donohue
Sit with this truth awhile. How will your walk change today? Tomorrow?
The epiphany is a joyful 'aha' moment when you realize in your whole self -- mind, imagination, heart, and bones -- that God is present in the world and that all that God created is imbued with the Spirit that makes it indeed, very good.
If we embrace this way of being, then our walk will become different.
This is the ecological conversation needed to see how Catholic spirituality and care of creation are intimately intertwined.
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