On the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of M. C. Richard’s classic book on art as meditation, Centering: In Poetry, Pottery and the Person, Friends of Creation Spirituality honored the author through a conference entitled “Freeing the Imagination.”
On a Friday evening, friends gathered on stage to tell their stories about M C. Richards. Among them were John Cage, who read a poem for M. C., and Merce Cunningham, who told stories and did a bird dance with his hands because his feet were in a very compromised state. About 300 people were in attendance.
The culminating event of the weekend was the Pelting with Flowers ritual of the Papago people of Arizona, led by Seneca woman and Franciscan Sister Jose Hobday who, like M.C. Richards, was a beloved member of our faculty at the University of Creation Spirituality.
The ceremony began with Sister Jose gathering all participants and instructing us to gather flowers and branches (no thorns) that were stacked in a pile and to pelt one another with flowers that had been moistened and softened ahead of time through careful preparation. When flowers and branches fall to the ground, you pick them up and keep pelting.
Lots of laughter and smiles and joy abounds. Everyone gives and everyone receives. And your enemies get a special vigor to the flowers they receive.
The philosophy of this ceremony is that we are all here on Earth to strike one another with beauty. Furthermore, our leaders must be more struck with beauty than anyone else.
And so, as a climax to the event, M.C. was invited into the center of the circle and baskets of flowers were showered unexpectedly on her.
M. C. was deeply moved by the event, as were we all. Later she recalled being “engulfed by the multifloriate rapture” and “pulverized by beauty… in a magical ecstasy moving the body into a new behavior.”
She was moved to compose the following poem.
Pelted By Beauty
(after an American Indian Flower Ritual)
The power of love received in the body
this was the Festival!
how we stood and faced one another
and we took hands
and the love came.
And all the flowers swarmed about our heads:
deep deep the sting goes.
Let love be welcomed the moment it seeks us.
In my flesh I feel it still,
the surprise and awe, the joy,
warming and swelling in my limbs and belly,
O miraculous conception O angels tumbling through
How real it is, the Christscript branded across our lips
that we shall love one another—as if the world
could ever be the same.
Over the edge, into the well, the abyss,
nibbling at the green fronds and flinging them!
Pelted by beauty and peace,
a cellular reordering, each tiny vessel
The fountain erupts, cascades,
and we wish to die in it, be other,
be one in an alchemy of eros,
that lad with the arrows who shoots blind.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work, pp. 291f.
See also Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest, p. 153.
Also see Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus, Stations of the Cosmic Christ
A special Thank You to Sister Jose Hobday; the Papago people of Arizona; M. C. Richards.
Banner Image: Spring Flowers. Photo from Pexels on Pixabay.
Does this ritual move you as it does me, remembering it after all these years? What rituals have you undergone or created that carried such deep response that you had to break into poetry to attempt to tell how it touched souls? And the future rituals you are called to create?
Natural Grace: Dialogues on Creation, Darkness, and the Soul in Spirituality and Science
by Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake
Natural Grace, a 208 page inspired dialogue between theologian Matthew Fox and scientist Rupert Sheldrake, unites wisdom and knowledge from unconventional angles. Considering themselves heretics in their own fields, Matthew and Rupert engage the conversation from postmodern and post-postmodern perspectives, deconstructing both religion and science—while setting the foundation for a new emerging worldview. Having outgrown the paradigms in which they were raised, both Fox and Sheldrake see it as part of their life missions to share the natural synthesis of spirituality and science rooted in a paradigm of evolutionary cosmology.
Bruce Chilton investigates the Easter event of Jesus in Resurrection Logic. He undertakes his close reading of the New Testament texts without privileging the exact nature of the resurrection, but rather begins by situating his study of the resurrection in the context of Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, and Syrian conceptions of the afterlife. He then identifies Jewish monotheistic affirmations of bodily resurrection in the Second Temple period as the most immediate context for early Christian claims. Chilton surveys first-generation accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and finds a pluriform–and even at times seemingly contradictory–range of testimony from Jesus’ first followers. This diversity, as Chilton demonstrates, prompted early Christianity to interpret the resurrection traditions by means of prophecy and coordinated narrative.