Thursday, April 22, 2010

Our Sister Mother Earth

About the Earth, St. Francis of Assisi sings in his "Canticle of the Sun":
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
I grew up loving the outdoors, but mostly in an aggressive way, using the outdoors to play at being a cowboy or a soldier or some kind of adventurer. The general attitude I sensed as a child, and went along with, was that hugging trees, saving whales, and recycling were things that only "liberals" did. But over the past four years or so, especially in the past year, I've grown to appreciate nature both in its own right and in the way that it seems to be able to help heighten my awareness of the loving omnipresent spirit of God.

Mary Frohlich suggests that those who are interested in Christian spirituality "are called to place the Earth and its wounds at the center of our attention in very concrete ways." She suggests that one of the proper transformations in the mystical journey through unknowing is to "[accept] the gift of oneself as a servant among servants in the company of God’s wondrous cosmic ecosystem." She quotes Teilhard de Chardin, saying that he "has best captured this insight into the divine at the heart of matter":
Oh, the diaphany of the divine at the heart of a glowing universe, as I have experienced it through contact with the earth—the divine radiating from the depths of blazing matter. Oh the beauty of spirit as it rises up adorned with all the riches of the earth! Oh human one, bathe yourself in the ocean of matter; plunge into it where it is deepest and most violent; struggle in its currents and drink of its waters. For it cradled you long ago in your preconscious existence; and it is that ocean that will raise you up to God.
I've taken a few small steps to increase my interactions with and connections to the Earth. Really, there is very little in the world that is not part of the Earth, so actually, it's my awareness that I'm working on.

  • I've begun recycling. : )
  • I've taken to really enjoy cutting fresh vegetables, to feel the sweet, clean vegetable flesh in my hands. 
  • Sometimes, when out for a walk, if I see a stump or a large stone, I lay my hands on it for a few moments to touch and take in its physicality. 
  • I've set up an aquarium in my office, and cultivated an an ecosystem in it with live plants, bacteria, shrimp, and fish. 
  • I've brought home a potted plant, a bromeliad. Christine takes care of it. 
  • Christine and I have both also taken to keeping fresh flowers on our dining room table. 
  • I've begun to try to be intentional about noticing the air and grass when I'm outside, even if it's just on my way to my car. I've also tried to notice more often the grass and trees along the road as I drive. 
  • And finally, I try to get out into nature when I can. Sometimes this is just a short visit to a park. But today, for instance, waking up and realizing that today was Earth Day, my family went to a nearby nature reserve that we'd heard about but had not been to before. We spent about a half an hour there. It really refreshed and recharged me for the day with a sense of presence, peace, and wholeness. Below I've posted some pictures that Christine took.
Mary Oliver says that those who love God will look "most deeply" into God's works. I pray that we may do this, that we may be blessed with such attention and awareness, that we may be refreshed, renewed, and grounded through "our sister Mother Earth."

Me with my daughter Elea in an oak tree.

A dead tree against the sky with wetland (I believe) in the background.

A mother and baby Sandhill Crane just a little off the path.

A plant with about four different types of insects on it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday Reflection

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God.
T.S. Eliot Four Quartets

On this day we reflect on what it means for us to recognize the true presence of the darkness of Good Friday. So often in the culture of the church we want to rush ahead to the joy of the resurrection. Many Protestant churches give little more than a nod to Good Friday. However, as we seek to be fully present to our Lord, how can we seek to avoid being present in this most crucial of moments? This moment is, in fact, the exact one Christ calls us to when he bids us to take hold of our crosses in following him.

When we hold this moment just a little bit longer than we would like, we commune with the crucified God and with all of the people who are forsaken by their God in their pain, suffering, and death. As I continue to reflect and meditate on the enormity of this moment, I am reminded of the Mystery of Faith that we recite each week; Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. But in this moment, under the sheer weight of the reality of what has happened, all I can bring myself to say is; Christ has died, Christ has died, Christ has died.

Matt Addis

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