I BELIEVE that we are called to live a spiritual life. That God has planted in each of us a seed of His divine nature. This seed is meant to be nurtured, to grow and blossom into a tree of life that is truly in God’s image. And I believe that we humans and all of creation are bound together in a great bond of blessing.
Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart (1260-1329) called creation “the first grace”. Hence, Creation can be understood as God’s original gift to us. We experience the gift of creation in our sense of wonder at the birth of a child, for instance, and awe at the sight of a stunningly beautiful sunrise or sunset. There is, in each of us, a yearning to experience all that is good, beautiful and true – echoing the divine nature within.
“We and all creatures are here to connect to the grace in one another and to the Source of all things,” says Matthew Fox, on interpreting Eckhart’s creation spirituality. Eckhart’s spirituality is one that is steeped in a passion for creation and rooted in compassion. It carries with it, as in biblical tradition, the responsibilities of justice-making.
How is it that many in today’s world do not seem able to live the spiritual life – one that acts on the values of love, justice and peace, one that is clearly Christlike? How is it that our hearts have so hardened, that we appear to absolve ourselves of any sense of responsibility for what is happening around us – the injustices and imbalances in our world?
On environmental issues alone, we learn of disaster after disaster, from massive floods to devastating earthquakes, and yet we appear unmoved. Perhaps it is because our “knowing” is derived from a distance. The mass media keeps us informed about the shocking effects of climate change such as floods in Pakistan, landslides in China, etc. And yet, even when the flash floods have come to our very own doorstep – in Orchard Road and in the basements where our cars are parked – it is still easier to shrug and say, “Let the authorities deal with it.”
The words of the psalmist, “O that today you would listen to his voice, harden not your hearts” (94:8) come to mind. Fox’s commentary on Eckhart’s creation spirituality points to this need to open up our hearts:
“The tasks at hand in our day – the ecological devastation, the despair of the young, the sterility of so many of our institutions from education to politics to economics to religion to art – all these require a leap into the sacred wilderness, an opening of the heart and mind and spirit to great things, to divine things...”
These comments are found in a book published in 1995 and are still relevant today.
One might wonder, what does it mean to “leap into the sacred wilderness”? We are reminded of what the Lord said through the prophet Hosea: “I am going to lure her and lead her out into the wilderness and speak to her heart” (Hosea. 1:16) . In the same way, “God wants to call us into the wilderness and there speak to us heart to heart,” says Fox.
In order to “recover the experience of the sacred wilderness”, Eckhart teaches that we need to move away from our outer, superficial self and become aware of our true inner self. Our spiritual life’s journey ought to be one that is led by the light from within, from the inner self to the outer world. When we awaken to our true spiritual self, we will be led to participate in justice-making and the creation of a more compassionate world.
How then, are we to awaken to our true spiritual self, and like the eagle “soar into the great wilderness that in fact is part of the divine nature”?
Our spiritual journey can begin in awakening to our relationship to the universe as a whole. The Greek word “kosmos” means “whole”. We are meant to experience the cosmos as blessing, for it is the gift of the Spirit that “fills the whole world” (Book of Wisdom). This brings with it the gift of true joy.
Nature’s first intention is to preserve the universe and “God loves all creatures equally”, filling the entire universe with “the divine’ being”, teaches Eckhart. The spiritual life is about having “a holy passion” for all of creation. It is about embracing our sacred duty as stewards of the earth and recovering our identity of being one with every living creature on the planet. It is about remembering that we all come from the same source that is God.
By Anne Lim
The writer is a parishioner of the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with a special interest in spiritual ecology