Pope Francis on the Via Positiva and Saving the Environment

We are discussing how to nurture mystics (lovers) who become prophets (warriors) to fight for the environment and for future generations of humans and millions of other species.  At this time when all hands need to be on deck to confront climate change it is clear we all need to bring forth the mystic and prophet that is within each of us. 

Thus we are journeying through the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality which name for us in archetypal ways what it takes to awaken and sustain the mystic-prophet, i.e. mystic-warrior.  The first of these Paths is the Via Positiva.  We are considering many mystics who speak profoundly to this experience of awe, wonder and delight.  In the last two meditations we listened to Rabbi Heschel, and finally Heschel with Meister Eckhart.

Pope Francis’ encyclical may be read or downloaded here

Today I wish to share the Via Positiva that is developed very richly in Pope Francis’ prophetic encyclical on Our Common Home, called “Laudato Si,” which title itself speaks of Praise.  Praise is part and parcel of the Via Positiva. 

It is especially striking to me how many scientists are taken by this encyclical.  I was asked to speak about it with 150 scientists gathered on an island to discuss climate change two summers ago and more recently at a gathering of Sierra Club in Berkeley, California.  One scientist told me it was the most important teaching on science and spirituality ever.

Following are some teachings from Pope Francis about the Via Positiva as found in his encyclical. More will follow in subsequent meditations.

He offers a universal prayer “for all who believe” in a Creator God and in doing so  moves subtly beyond theism beginning the prayer this way: “You are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.”  Macro and Microcosm are named.  Pope Francis invokes the word “beauty” at least twenty-seven times in the encyclical.  He asks God to “pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty” and asks that “we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.” (246)

A final prayer asks God to “Teach us to contemplate you in the beauty of the universe, for all things speak of you.”  (246) This echoes Meister Eckhart who says every creature is a word of God and a book about God and “all creatures are words of God.”

Adapted from Matthew Fox, “Laudato Sí: The Pope’s Encyclical and the Coming of Age of Creation Spirituality: A Call to a Broader, Deeper Path of Hope and Challenge
Banner Image: “St. Francis Preaching to the Birds,” Giotto. Wikimedia.

For Deeper Contemplation

Let certain phrases, perhaps the ones in bold here, enter your heart and stay there with them. What results?

Are you and we “protecting beauty” and “sowing beauty” every day?  Are we also busy praising?

I highly recommended you read or better yet hold a study group on “Laudato Si.” Let that be your lectio divina. 

Recommended Reading

 In this extended commentary, Matthew Fox examines Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, noting its  creation spirituality perspective and calling on readers to abandon doctrinal squabbles and unite in protecting “our common home” through the vias positiva, negativa, creativa and transformativa.

By Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, and Jen Listug
“The Order of the Sacred Earth not only calls us home to our true nature as Earth, but also offers us invaluable guidance and company on the way.” 
~~ Joanna Macy, environmental activist and author of Active Hope
“The creation of the Order of the Sacred Earth is a magnificent step forward for humanity.”  ~~ Andrew Harvey, author of Way of Passion and The Hope.

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