One Very Special Ceremony/Ritual

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.”  

Centering in Pottery, Poetry and the Person by M.C. Richards. Photo by Matthew Fox.

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)

“Pots by M.C. Richards.” Photo by Matthew Fox.

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,  

“I Am the Door” Plaque by M.C. Richards, from The Stations of the Cosmic Christ.

O miraculous conception O angels tumbling through  
the air!
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,  
idiotically amorous, 
nibbling at the green fronds and flinging them!

Pelted by beauty and peace, 
a cellular reordering, each tiny vessel   
lovecrazed, opening.

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.

Resurrection Logic: How Jesus’ First Followers Believed God Raised Him from the Dead

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.

Upcoming Events

Mirabai Starr and Matthew Fox teach a 7-week course: Julian of Norwich: A Bold Gentle Visionary on Living in a Time of Pandemic. Beginning Wednesday, December 2, 2020 and running through January. On The Shift Network, Wednesdays at 8pm ET and 5pm PT (GMT/UTC-8). Registration is open until December 15: enroll HERE.

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6 thoughts on “One Very Special Ceremony/Ritual”

  1. Avatar

    Ah, what perfect timing for me! My husband and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary (especially wonderful to me as I didn’t marry until I was in my mid 40’s). We’re still considering how to thoroughly celebrate “COVID-19” style- at home and outdoors. Savoring our earliest days together in a ritual….hmm, this will be beautiful….

  2. Avatar

    Reflecting on the ritual of selling my home and moving to another, only poetry could express my connection with a particular standing one. Here is my poem I titled “Love Affair.”

    I had a love affair with a tree once
    couldn’t take it with me

    had to let it go—
    you know—
    with the house

    but each year as spring approaches…
    my thoughts wander back
    to white blossoms and filtered sunlight
    and I want to ask
    are you okay?
    are they treating you well?
    do they appreciate you?
    the way I did, I mean

    and I wish I could stand next to you
    feel you
    reach up and pick that first exquisite plum of the season
    bite through your purple skin
    into your burgundy flesh
    letting the juice run down my chin
    feel that explosion of sweet-tart bliss

    you kept me in the kitchen
    six weeks each hot July
    dealing with your abundance
    canning chutneys and jellies and jams
    putting up pricked plums in light honey syrup
    sweat dripping down my face and under my arms
    taking basketfuls to Mary McAnena
    for the homeless at Hart Park

    one morning of one year
    after weeks of hot canning
    strolling out to find your still-profligate branches
    had dropped bushelsful of ripe satsumas
    I stood beneath you
    threw up my hands and pleaded
    “Stop! Stop!”

    the next summer
    the meagerest of harvests

    chastised, I never did that again

    seventeen years we lived and danced together
    seventeen years nurtured each other
    such love
    such love
    it must’ve been our love that made your plums
    so succulently sweet

    Copyright S. Michele McFadden

    1. Avatar

      Thank you Michelle. Your poem is beautiful. I, too, have a love affair with trees, and one special one in our yard that I have told my secrets to for many years. They do hear us (and reply if we listen carefully).

    2. Avatar

      Your poem brought to my mind the plum trees we had when I grew up. How we gathered the fruit into baskets. My mother canning jars of them for the winter. Making plum jam to pile on her home make bread. These plums sustained our family of 6 kids through the winter and into the next fall.
      I was very much a tomboy and climbed these trees also.
      Thank you for waking these memories in me.

      1. Avatar

        Liz, Dr. Richard, and Elaine. Thank you so much. Liz, thank you for sharing your memories. How lovely that your plums sustained you through the winter. We would put a jar of honey-canned plums in the fridge overnight when fruit was scarce and have them cold with oatmeal for breakfast. Oh! they tasted so sweet and in each bite carried so deliciously a memory of the summer before.

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