We are meditating on the sacredness of creation.
No forest, no moon, no ocean, no field, can be labeled “Buddhist” or “Jewish” or “Muslim” or “Christian.” Nature, Creation, that which is, is far bigger and far more ancient than any of our religious traditions. When our religions rediscover this truth, they will rediscover their own humility and humble place in the unfolding of things.
To know that the universe is 13.8 billion years in the making and that the religions we recognize today are tens of thousands of years old (the indigenous ones) or about five thousand years old (the oldest being Hinduism) is to shudder in the presence of the tenuousness of our tradition.
I speak of “re-discovering” religion’s relationship to nature and Creation because our religions once knew these facts well.
Surely the indigenous faiths are all grounded in Creation and enveloped by its wonder and beauty and grace. As we shall see, all of our faith traditions of even more recent vintage share a belief in the sacredness of the universe and of our role in it.
But this Creation-centered perspective has often taken a back seat to other agendas, including building empires in the name of religion and using religion to exclude elements of Creation, including women, slaves, homosexuals, forests, waters, the sky. And putting redemption before creation.
Fr. Bede Griffiths recognizes Hinduism as a “cosmic religion” and he acknowledges how the aboriginal religions were profoundly creation centered because they “had not learned to separate man from nature and nature from God.”
How interesting that it takes a certain education or “civilization” to separate nature from God and man from nature! One has to learn to do this kind of unnatural disassociation.
Most of us are born with a sense of awe that is expanded by our experiences in nature—expanded and called forth. So many mystics from so many traditions sing of this intimacy of the human psyche and the universe.
In the Hebrew Bible the oldest creation story is found in Psalm 104, and in that psalm we have a telling of the unfolding of Creation that celebrates the existence of the sky, the waters, the clouds, the wind, fire, the earth, the mountains, the thunder, the valleys, the wild animals, the wild donkeys, the birds, the grasses, the cattle, the plants, wine, oil, bread that come from the soil.
The trees, the stork, the wild goats, the rock-badgers, the moon, the sun, the night, the forest animals, the lions are all claiming their food from God.
Yahweh, what variety you have created,
arranging everything so wisely!
Earth is completely full of things you have made:
among them vast expanse of ocean,
teeming with countless creatures,
creatures large and small,
with the ships going to and fro….
Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 28, 34.
Banner Image: A meeting of the interfaith environmental Alliance of Religions and Conservation in Bristol, England, in September 2015. Founded by HRH Prince Charles in 1995 as a secular body to help the world’s major faiths develop environmental programs based on their own core teachings, beliefs and practices. the ARC closed in 2019.
Queries for Contemplation
Has your experience been that your religious or spiritual tradition begins with the sacredness of creation? Or has this taken back seat to other agenda items?
One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths
Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit