Wisdom from a Central American Mystic, Poet and Activist

We have been exploring some meanings to the “Involuntary Lent” that the coronavirus emergency has laid upon us.  We turn now to the mystics who bring wisdom in a time like this, a time of the dark night of our species.  We may weave in and out between the coronavirus and the mystics as we journey through our Daily Meditations.  They are not unrelated.

Ernesto Cardenal read his poems in La Chascona (Santiago, Chile), 8/1/2009. Photo by Roman Bonnefoy on Wikimedia Commons.

Ernesto Cardenal was a monk and mystic and activist and a poet of great stature from Nicaragua.  He studied with the late monk Thomas Merton when he was novice master and Cardenal was a novice in the monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemane in Kentucky. 

It was my privilege to meet him on several occasions, the first being in his home when he was minister of culture under the Sandanista regime and where he showed me his library and how he was studying the new cosmology by reading Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, and other American scientists in preparation for his celebrated poem on the “Canticle of the Universe,”  El Cantico Cosmico

There he tells the new creation story from the fireball to today’s cultural events in an epic poem that in many ways derives its inspiration from the “Song of Songs” in the Scriptures.  Our paths also crossed when he came to the Bay Area for book signings which I attended.

A cricket chirping. Photo by JimHolwe on Flickr. Click the image to hear Jim Wilson’s recording “God’s Chorus of Crickets” with two slowed tracks of crickets overlaid with opera singer Bonnie Jo Hunt’s subtle vocals.

Following are some of his creation-based, earth-based, insights into our Return to the Source via creation found in his book, To Live Is to Love: Meditations on Love and Spirituality (page 88).

Nature is religious in its very essence. The star-studded firmament, for example, is one great supplication. The spirit of every landscape is a spirit of prayer, and so is the deep silence of solitary places.

The crickets and the stars speak to us of God, and what they are telling us is that they were created by God.

The entire cosmos aspires to a union with that God from whom it has gone forth. . . 

The “Dawn Chorus” of birdsong, Hertfordshire, England, 2013.

Like Eckhart and Aquinas and Francis, his worldview begins with the universe.  He addresses what this means for our behavior and our value systems when he comments:  

The law of love is the supreme physical and biological law of the universe and also the one and only moral law (“I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you”). 

Cardenal invites us again into the “religious life of nature”. Stars and landscapes, crickets and the cosmos, are all testifying to the one “supreme physical and biological law of the universe . . . love one another.”

“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt. From the collection at Teylers Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands; on Wikimedia Commons.

Humanity, in all its aspirations and actions, is part of this sacred cosmos.   

All the appetites and anxieties of man, his eating habits, his sexuality, his friendships, are one single appetite and one single anxiety to achieve union with one another and with the cosmos. . . . This cosmic homecoming is what Christ wanted to reveal to us in the parable of the Prodigal Son. 

Our appetites and our anxieties are all about “achieving union with one another and with the cosmos.” This is the unio mystica, the mystical union. It all can be called a “cosmic homecoming.” We are all welcomed home just like the young man in the story of the Prodigal Son.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, pp. 334, 335.

Banner Image: Mountain lake at twilight. Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

When have you experienced nature as “religious in its very essence”?   What follows from that experience?

Do you agree that we undergo a “cosmic homecoming” in our everyday actions of eating, sexuality, friendships and that this is an echo of the parable of the Prodigal Son?

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Your Music Your Way Summit

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