I love a picture of Earth taken from space. It represents one of our greatest technological achievements - the step out into space - but really, this picture of our planet has a far deeper significance because, for the first time ever, we have seen ourselves and the planet from the outside, and the view has changed everything.
In a real sense, this image of Earth has become a religious icon for me, a sacred symbol of that which is precious and holy, because it elicits such profound feelings of awe and wonder, of oneness and interconnectedness, and of being a part of something so much greater.
The Sacred Texts of all spiritual traditions speak constantly of the stupendous magnificence of the Universe and Earth, of its overwhelming beauty and elegance, of its vast and diverse array of creatures, and of the incredibly complex and interdependent weave of its ecosystems.
For our ancestors and for indigenous peoples, the natural world was alive and permeated with spirit. They lived in a sacred universe, and virtually every notion they had about God or about that mystery that is at the heart of everything that exists was awakened and shaped by this beautiful world in which they lived.
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They experienced Earth as the Mother of all beings and habitually spoke of Mother Nature and Mother Earth.
The natural world was a spiritual reality for them and if they had a vivid and keen sense of the divine, it was only because they lived in the midst of such stupendous beauty and awesome magnificence.
This notion that we live in a Sacred Universe that is permeated with spirit and revelatory of that mystery we Christians call God, seems like a strange one to mainstream western culture however, because we have been raised in a secular landscape and we have been taught to identify the sacred primarily with our churches and cathedrals, but we have not been taught to identify the sacred with the natural world.
In fact, for most of us today, the natural world has come to be viewed purely as a material reality, with no intrinsic value and no inherent worth. Its’ value for us is simply utilitarian, its’ worth coming only from the value we humans give it. Nature’s bounty and abundance are seen solely as commodities and natural resources that can be bought and sold, extracted and exploited, used and even abused if we humans so desire. And it is this mentality that has brought us to the desperate state we find our world in, as this quote from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops indicates:
God’s glory is revealed in the natural world, yet we humans are presently destroying creation. In this light, the ecological crisis is also a profoundly religious crisis.
In destroying creation we are limiting our ability to know and love God. The ecological crisis is a moral issue and the responsibility of everyone.”
This loss of our sense of Earth as Sacred is arguably at the heart of our current environmental crisis, including The Global Climate Crisis. However, many people feel that its rediscovery may be the key to an eventual solution — and this is one perspective that people of faith are uniquely qualified to offer.
Please join us as Thurston County Faith Communities Walk and Bike for Climate Change Action on Saturday morning Oct. 24, a worldwide day of action for people who see the climate crisis as a spiritual and moral issue, and who are committed to working together to find solutions. For more information, please call 360-786-8074 and/or go to www.uuvoiceswa.org.
Sister Mimi Maloney SNJM is a member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, of St. Michael’s Parish and of Earth Care Catholics.