Observing your own practices and hopes in relation to creation
In the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1-8,18-23), Jesus is reminding us that our life is, in a sense, like that of soil. As we explore our relationship with creation, we will be considering our lives to see if they are in balance. What is the condition of the soil in your life: Is it good? Is it in balance? Or is it full of thorns or stones that will have to be removed before plants can really flourish in it? Will you have to add ‘nutrients’ to your soil? If the soil has been depleted, the only thing that will thrive in it are the weeds.
A Reading from Living in Rhythm: Following Nature’s Rule, by Br. James Koester, SSJE
From the very opening of the book of Genesis – when we see God at work, making the earth – the creation promises to offer us a direct link back to its Creator. By looking to the wonder of creation, we begin to fathom the mystery of our belonging to the God who made us, too. As people with the eyes of faith, we see in the yearly cycle of the seasons the transfiguring power of the Spirit, restoring all things in Christ who himself fills all things . . . . Restoration – the restoration of our balance with nature, as well as the restoration of the natural world itself – teaches us our own place as creatures, natural creatures, placed on this earth by a loving Creator.
Over the last few years, as we Brothers have been deepening our connection with the property at Emery House – working the land to grow food, conserving the land to restore native habitats – we’ve come to appreciate more and more just how fundamental our connection to the creation is to our lives as monks and our wholeness as human beings. We believe that living in rhythm with nature, by the structure of a Rule, helps each of us to grow into that vibrant life the Gardener dreamed when we were created.
We need to get our hands dirty. We need to be physically in touch with the creation. We need to get reconnected to nature, in a place that isn’t just manicured lawns or city parks bordered by skyscrapers. We need to experience the good ache of using our bodies in fresh air. We need honest sweat.
I think we need this because, ultimately, it reminds us who we are, that fundamental identity the Catechism defines as ‘part of God’s creation.’ The creation connects us with the Creator. It grounds us in the living rhythms of which we are a part. We remember not just that we have a body, but that we are a body – a working, interdependent, natural, physical miracle that God made. ‘For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will thank you because I am marvelously made…’ (Psalm 139:12).
We need to live in rhythm with nature because we are nature. We’re not over and above or outside of nature; we’re part of nature, we’re part of the whole ecosystem. When we live in rhythm with nature, we take our place as one part of this magnificent whole that God has made. Our own restoration is fundamentally linked with the preservation and restoration of the natural world we inhabit and of which we ourselves are a part.
As we strive to live in rhythm – as God intends us to live – we feel ourselves called into the woods, the desert wastes, beside the running waters, under the deep blue sky. We respond to the deep fellowship with nature that the Spirit urges, and which is a fundamental part of our humanity. We learn from the natural world the rhythms by which we can live richer, more human and humane lives. And when we begin to heed these rhythms, in the words of early SSJE member Father Congreve, then the Creation ‘shall become a living and personal word revealing to each of us the heart of God.’
Exercise: My Creation Collage
What does your relationship with God’s creation look like? Think about your lifestyle, what you consume, what daily choices you make, your relationship with money, food, clothing, material goods, and possessions. Where do you notice imbalance? What is there too much of in your life? What is there not enough of?
Download the exercise and use the four spaces outside the circle write or draw some ways in which you contribute to this abuse of creation, both indirectly and directly? In the inner circle write one (or more) step you will include in your rule of life to contribute to the healing of creation.
You might use the medium of collage in this exercise – Click here to see an example.
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