Ever since the iconic photo that astronauts took 52 years ago of the Earth as a single entity, we have been reminded how our identity as humans cannot possibly be named at its roots by our nationhood (since nations don’t even show up on the photo); or by race; or by religion; or by ethnicity; or by language or culture alone. 

Earthrise, taken December 24, 1968 by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders (photograph: NASA.gov)

Primarily and fundamentally we are all Earthlings, sons and daughters of Mother Earth and all her other creatures from insects to skies, from oceans to rainforests, from soil to trees, from animals to birds and fishes and all the marvelous beings visible and invisible that house us and with whom we make a common home. 

Happy 50th Earth Day, everyone!

Yet there is much that is not happy at this time it seems—not only the suffering being waged by the coronavirus but also the suffering of Mother Earth herself.

She is undergoing a kind of crucifixion at the hands of our species and its voracious empires that stop at nothing to murder her rainforests, poisoning the waters and the air, render extinct her many other species.

Aerial shot of the 2014 Oso, WA mudslide, caused by illegal clear-cutting. Forty-three people perished. Photo by Governor Jay & First Lady Trudi Inslee on Flickr.

The ecosystem destruction is creating droughts and floods, savage and multiple hurricanes and wild fires and climate change so drastic that entire island peoples have to pack up and move on and entire continents are set ablaze while glaciers and sources of water for millions of years are melting relentlessly. 

Thirty years ago, in my book The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, I spoke of a dream I received about the crucifixion of Mother Earth. 

While on a lecture tour, I had a dream that I realized was an important one. Native Americans refer to such a dream as a “big dream”–one meant not just for the individual dreamer but for the whole community. The climax of the dream contained this refrain: “Your mother is dying.”.

Fires in the Amazon Rainforest as developers take possession of indigenous land. NASA image by Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of the MODIS Rapid Response team.

The first meaning of the warning, “Your mother is dying,” can be taken in reference to Mother Earth. That the earth is our mother is a deeply held truth among native peoples the world over. 

Native Americans speak an ancient truth when they say that “native languages talk of the Creation in family terms such as ‘Mother Earth,’ ‘Grandmother Moon,’ ‘The Grandfather Winds.’” 

Behind this language is a wisdom teaching about our deepest relationships to nature.  Earth as mother; sky as father.

The teachings of the great Benedictine abbess of the twelfth century, Hildegard of Bingen, echo this wisdom:

Join international Earth Day actions at EarthDay.org

The earth is at the same time mother, she is mother of all that is natural, mother of all that is human. She is the mother of all, for contained in her are the seeds of all.

Today, Earth Day, 2020, we stand at a crossroads: Will it be matricide?  Will it be ecocide?  Or will we, as a species, come to our senses, wake up and get up, resurrect and rise up to defend our Mother?


Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 13-17.

Banner Image: Permaculture practitioner Dennis Doyon hold his hands under a spring revived through the tree-plantings he and his family did ten years ago in the almost completely slashed-and-burned Atlantic Forest, known as Mata Atlantica, in Brazil. Their land was one of the first to receive 100 trees from IGiveTrees.org. Learn more about their story HERE; learn about IGiveTrees’ ongoing work HERE.

Queries for Contemplation

What does Earth Day 2020 mean to you?  How has your feeling for Earth Day evolved and deepened in the past fifty years (or less if you are younger)?  Where do you see it going in terms of passion and action?

Recommended Reading

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.

Conversations on Aquinas: Jerry Maynard

As Matthew Fox’s travels have been curtailed due to the coronavirus, he is sharing a series of conversations with revolutionary thinkers and spiritual teachers on the topics explored in his latest book, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times. In this video, he and Rev. Jerry Maynard, O.M.M., Founding Pastor of the People’s Church in Houston, TX, have an inter-generational conversation on Thomas Aquinas and his wisdom for sacred activism today.

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3 thoughts on “Earth Day, 2020”

  1. Avatar

    What a lovely start to earth day. Cosmic Christ; One River, Many Wells and more sit alongside Wendell Berry, John O’Donahue, Philip Newell and countless other beautiful volumes. Thank-you for your life, thought, writing and this.

  2. Avatar

    Good morning and Happy 50th Earth Day to you too! May it truly be a golden anniversary, bathed in golden light, a new beginning, cloaked in change. Thank you and see you tomorrow.

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