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October 28th Book Club - Day 2 Encountering Earth

In preparation for our time together this Wednesday evening, I am offering a few gems from previous blogs to allow us to do some "holy" noticing of Earth in all its physical and spiritual dimensions

Sit with this as your feet touch the ground beneath your feet. Wriggle your toes - let them play. Really connect to Earth via your souls and soles. My recent Ecotheology class did just this at sunrise and the sea offered us hospitality via a school of dolphins playing in the waves...

If we believe that we are inspirited, graced stardust, this will change everything.

Breath in the truth -- You, I, and all that surrounds you are subjects in the great cosmic communion that is still unfolding. The cosmos is alive with the wild, creative, redeeming Spirit of God and we are part of this creation. We are so loved by God -- but so are they -- Earth and all that grace this blue marble. ... this is the whole truth beautifully narrated by Douglas Wood.

The scales must fall from our eyes so we can awaken to this truth.

Exhale. Remove from your body and mind the myth of human disconnectedness from Earth, our Mother, protector, and sustainer.

Remind yourself: With diligence and training I will learn to see Earth as glorifying God and communicating something to me of the nature and activity of God ... if I am aware.

If I hone my holy noticing.

This week we focus our attention on Earth.

We must awaken to the Mountain behind the mountain -- this is the source of the ecological conversation Pope Francis calls for in Laudato Si'. Today's blog is my attempt to notice the holy-ness of the mountain and that which lays beyond the mountain.

Reflect a moment on the reason why Christians must reconnect to God as the mountain behind the mountain (Laudato Si', p.217)

[T]he ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion…Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.

Pope Francis

I remember the first time decades ago that Noel Dermot O'Donoghue's book "the mountain behind the mountain" was introduced to me. He was a scholar of Celtic Christianity and taught that the mountainous landscape of Ireland is a thin place -- somewhere where the veil between the physical/material and the immaterial/divine is so thin and permeable, one can almost touch and experience the face of Mystery.

For a taste of the personal and embodied sense of God in Celtic imaginations -- one that engages the senses as well as the intellect -- check out Celtic Women's performance of The Sky and the Dawn and the Sun.

The lyrics of this song speaks of the intimacy of the eternally transcendent God with creation and how Earth helps proclaim the truth of her Creator.

High is the moon tonight

Hiding its guiding light


Heaven and earth do sleep

Still in the dark so deep

I will the darkness sweep

I will the moon to flight

I will the heavens bright

I will the earth delight

Open your eyes with me

See paradise with me

Awake and arise with me

I am the dawn, I'm the new day begun

I bring you the morning, I bring you the sun

I hold back the night and I open the skies

I give light to the world, I give sight to your eyes

From the first of all time, until time is undone

Forever and ever and ever and ever

And I am the dawn and the sky and the sun

I am one with the One, and I am the dawn

I am the sky and the dawn and the sun

I am the sky and the new day begun

I am the sky and the dawn and the sun

God is the Mountain behind the mountain. And the trails crisscrossing the surface of this sacred and physical space can lead us home to God. The trails that I meandered over my life have spoken of such intimacy with God because I was looking for this sermon. I was open to discovering thin places and seeking to encounter God there.

I invite you to remember trails that your have walked in your past or imaginatively immerse yourself within the landscapes of this picture.

Come join me in this journey of holy noticing to encounter the Mountain behind the mountain.

Looking Glass Mountain

Immerse yourself in the green.

The dirt.

Feel the breeze rustling through the branches.

Listen to the life around you, beneath you.

Breath in the musty scent of the dirt and detritus.

Feel the embrace.

Now Exhale.

Bring to mind your own trail with/to God. Are you just beginning, out of breath, legs heavy with the weariness of the world? Or are you bounding towards God with a lightness that comes from your connection with a true source of sustenance? Or are you off in the underbrush, unable to even see the path to God? And who do you picture as fellow travelers on your path - worthy of engagement?

Rocky Knob Mountain

Look at the small details in the picture above. Notice the slight buttressing of this tree's root in response to the winds of change and the depth of soil. The stronger the winds against the trunk and branches of the tree and the shallower the soil, the more buttressing a tree has to do in order to stay upright.

How is this tree conveying the power of the Creator? Can this story of agility, dynamism and natural resiliency help you understand the nature of God's strength and resilience?

How does the millennia of harmony pictured in this forest ecosystem -- this brilliant green, brown, and gold web of life -- witness to the harmony of the divine community of the Trinity? How can this web of life teach our parishes, schools and communities how to love each other better? How does this system of life tell us that our false belief of separateness and superiority -- our delusion of power over creation and people who look and sound different than us?

Sit with this trail and reflect on paragraph 11 of Laudato Si'

If we approach nature and the environment without…openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.

Pope Francis

Now notice the incredibly slow journey of the unfurling grey roots as they stretch their fingers further into unfamiliar places looking for stability, nourishment, and community. Notice that in return, these roots gratefully hold firm and maintaining the home of tens of thousands of scuttling bugs and friends against the corrosive fury of life's storms.

What are they trying to tell us about time, urgency, and the reciprocal nature of work? When we ignore the revelation offered through our wonder and awe of these Earthy trails, we become ignorant of a dimension of our triune God who holds us fast and we are blind to the needs and gifts of our human neighbors. In what ways does the tendrils of your life grace others with space and opportunity to live and love abundantly?

Sit with this trail and reflect on paragraph 217 of Laudato Si'

The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast”. For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion. It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an “ecological conversion”, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them.

Pope Francis

Notice this fern as it is stretching its hungry, joyful arms and leaves towards the light -- its roots deep inside the smallest crack in the solid exterior of this rock. I can almost hear her lighthearted laughter for she is doing what she is called to do in DNA yet it is nearly an impossible task -- growing in the midst of metamorphosed volcanic formations with creativity and grace. And in return, her roots chip off bits of silica, iron, calcium, and carbon creating soil for future generations of neighbors to make their home.

Your own roots are grounding you in this unique moment in history? Where do they lie? Are they exposed? Do they grow tenaciously in the crevice of a rock face, beating all the odds and creating fertile substrate for those who follow? Or are they shriveling on bare ground because you are afraid to become what is written within your core essence?

What is this fern preaching about God's creative power, grace, and love?

In this thin place, what does she teach us about our call to interdependence, service and sacrifice?

Sit with this fern a while and then reflect on paragraph 220 of Laudato Si'.

This conversion calls for a number of attitudes which together foster a spirit of generous care, full of tenderness. First, it entails gratitude and gratuitousness, a recognition that the world is God’s loving gift, and that we are called quietly to imitate his generosity in self-sacrifice and good works:... It also entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion. As believers, we do not look at the world from without but from within, conscious of the bonds with which the Father has linked us to all beings. By developing our individual, God-given capacities, an ecological conversion can inspire us to greater creativity and enthusiasm in resolving the world’s problems and in offering ourselves to God “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable" (Rom 12:1).

Pope Francis

Thank God we are stardust in a grand, beloved communion of subjects.

Awaken to the deep, intertwining roots of creation and your own roots as part of the mountain glorifying the Mountain that lays just beyond -- and everything will change.

Praise Be!

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