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Sister Doreen’s Reflections

(from BAS Eucharistic Prayer #4):

“The human community and the natural world will go into the future as a single sacred community, or we will both perish in the desert.” (Thomas Berry)

Climate change, the knowledge that the earth, with all its creatures is in crisis, is front page news, and in the minds and hearts of all of us. We know that in responding to this crisis it will require every possible resource of the human community, and that means that individually we will all be affected and changed by this need.

In a book called “Care for Creation: A Franciscan Spirituality of the Earth” (by Ilia Delio, Keith D Warner, and Pamela Wood) there is the following challenging question in the introduction:

How do we Christians proclaim the alleluia of the risen Christ while the garment of our natural world is being rent from top to bottom?  Something, indeed, is amiss.”

We could follow that question with others that I think we need to ponder:

  • Have we lost a Christian theology that adequately conveys the idea that creation is God speaking to us?
  • Does this creation lead us to love and praise God?
  • Do we confront creation as a sacred book?

Perhaps what is amiss is that in our contemporary world we see ourselves as separate from creation and we have lost that sense of self that is rooted in our interconnectedness with all of life.  Somehow we need to return to our understanding “that God is incarnate in all of creation and that entering into the cloister of creation helps us to deepen our relationship with our Creator.” (from Care for Creation).  To begin to see ourselves and all of creation as being integrally part of the incarnation rather than separate and distinct from it may have some positive implications for our response to the crisis facing us.  It may help us to begin over and over again, with deeper understanding, in treading lightly on this fragile earth our island home. It may help us to become rooted in our interconnectedness with all of life in a way that deeply acknowledges that this fragile earth our island home has been created to sustain us in every moment.

We acknowledge each evening as we say Compline here at the Convent using Night Prayers that we are God’s home and perhaps now is the time to also acknowledge the amazing hospitality of this fragile earth our island home.  It is not only our home but it is first and foremost God’s house!  We need to build new bonds of love, care, concern, and companionship not only with each other, but also with this island home that sustains us and is interconnected – kin – with us.  “Perhaps the planet is withering because we have accepted a sense of ourselves that is too small.” (Gail Worcelo).

In both our Baptismal Covenant and the Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Church of Canada we are asked: “Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the earth.”  At the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada 2019 we adopted the Arusha Call to Discipleship, amongst the twelve points was the following statement: “We are called to care for God’s creation, and to be in solidarity with nations severely affected by climate change in the face of a ruthless human-centered exploitation of the environment for consumerism and greed.”

These are all a call – an urgent call – for us to recover our ecological niche, our role in creation, based on our identity as in-relationship-to the rest of the earth. We need to expand our vision of ourselves, of our choices, of our actions and of how we promote policies that protect the integrity of life on earth. They call us to a sense of respect, an appreciation for diversity, and a willingness to share.  It means being less self-centered (“it’s all about me”) and more concerned for the welfare of others, a prayerful challenge to us that can bring a spiritual power of healing and reconciliation between ourselves and creation, a creation in which God lives in faithful love.  We all need each other.

From the book “Care for Creation”:  “When we act justly and love rightly, when we treat things with utmost dignity according to their inherent goodness realizing that each unique thing is singularly wanted and loved by God, then we help promote the harmony of goodness. This is the harmony of a diverse and created order in which the whole of creation gives glory and praise to God, an infinite, loving Creator.  Creation is charged with the goodness of God and, even in eternal life creation will sing the praises and glory of God.”

In the midst of our current ecological crises we might think of the wisdom of Irenaeus, and translate his saying in our own words: “the glory of God is the earth fully alive”. We see the harm all around us, in nature and amongst ourselves, and must acknowledge it as a sign that neither the human nor the earth is fully alive.  We have a challenge – a call – to learn to live within our humble place as part of (not superior to) our living planet, how to participate in the diversity of life, how to live in interconnectedness.  It will bring the Lord’s prayer anew to us in depths we perhaps have not before considered: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

How can we choose another path? How can we overcome the fear and greed that paralyze us? I believe it is only possible by entering more deeply into love and relationship with God and creation.  Contemplative living is not an option, but the only real alternative that can make the Word of God alive in the world today.  We long for a new heaven and a new earth.  Prayer, open hearts and minds, repentance, and revolution are needed to foster a more sustainable world.  Only a life-giving relationship with God can sustain a life-giving Earth.  It is never easy to confront painful information, but confronting it strengthens our ability to do the work that is needed to cocreate with God a sustainable world.

The Arusha call #6 about the care for God’s creation goes on to say: “this call to transforming discipleship is not a one that we can answer in our own strength, so the call becomes, in the end, a call to prayer:  Loving God, we thank you for the gift of life in all its diversity and beauty.  Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, we praise you that you came to find the lost, to free the oppressed, to heal the sick, and to convert the self-centred.  Holy Spirit, we rejoice that you breathe in the life of the world and are poured out into our hearts.  Grant us faith and courage to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus: becoming pilgrims of justice and peace in our time.  For the blessing of your people, the sustaining of the earth, and the glory of your name. Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

We live in an evolutionary universe with God as the center and goal.  We have an awareness that our actions have the power to help move the universe toward its full potential or that our actions may thwart this goal.  What we do matters. It seems to me as we live on this fragile earth our island home, with a willingness to do the hard work of repentance and revolution, that those who are open and empty enough, who are in need to receive and to give forth what they have received – it is these that are the people who live in gratitude to God, and this gratitude is a spirit of conversion. 

God calls out to us: GO, REBUILD MY OIKOS (my family, my household), and in that calling invites us to share, partner, co-create – this is God’s invitation to joy.  In the end, I believe, that nourished by prayer, fueled by love, and sustained in community (we need each other), within the mystery of the Incarnation, this fragile earth, our island home, will come together in unity and coherence, it will have the holding power to cocreate with God a new world that is just and sustainable for all.

From the book “Care for Creation”: “The human mind, when unconscious and on autopilot, has proven to be one of the most destructive forces on this planet. But the conscious, intentional choices of the human mind with the converted heart have the power to build a new creation!  The work of these human hands we each hold, geared toward service and fueled by love and compassion, can cocreate with God a new, life-sustaining society that will ensure a world for our grandchildren’s children.  Through this work, through these hands, we can join with our loving Creator and cocreate a world of beauty, justice and love.  Amen.