Consecrating Our Work as a Ritual

I suggested in yesterday’s meditation that perhaps we ought to bring an altar, a reminder of the union of God and us and the cosmos and us, to all our work and places of work.

A desk altar at Mary House Catholic Worker. Photo by Jim Forest on Flickr.

A former student of mine, on graduating from our master’s program in Culture and Spirituality, invented a new kind of work.  She set out to build altars for lawyers in their work places.  The interest in the project was significant.  The results, poignant.  Her courage and imagination, unparalleled.

A Hindu philosopher tells us that to connect one’s work to the Atman in one, to the spirit at one’s core, is to transform the work:  

Nothing is secular anymore.  (Your work becomes) an offering to God.  Your whole waking life has become one continual spiritual practice…. Everything you do is a form of worship. 

Our work is our practice of the Via Transformativa.  It is holy.   Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of that.  We bring our experience of the Via Positiva and Negative and Creativa to work.

Thomas Merton in his study. From Wikimedia Commons.

True creativity is to transmit one’s inner core to others.  Piero Ferrucci put it this way: 

Contact with the Self spreads beyond its own occurrence, and often lives on in the form of a work of art, a creative solution to a problem, a scientific discovery, an invention, a social or religious movement, a humanitarian initiative.  A person’s inner state is transmitted to others.

Thomas Aquinas in the West thoroughly agrees when he says:

As long as the marvelous effect of Christ lies hidden in anyone’s heart, Christ is not honored by it, except in that heart, but not in regard to others, until it breaks out into external, visible actions.

11th century Shiva Nataraja, Chola period bronze, Government Museum, Chennai, India. Photo by yashima on Flickr.

One of the great images of Indian mythology is Shiva Nataraja, the Dancing Shiva.  He is pictured with four arms dancing in a circle of fire, dancing at the heart of creation.  Ferrucci continues:

It is a cosmic dance: it represents the power which permeates the whole universe.  The idea is that God is dancing in the heart of creation and in every human heart.  Surely there lies in this archetype an invitation to every human heart to dance and to join the cosmic and divine heart-dance that is truly going on.  Finding the divine dance in us allows us to find the divine dance all around us.

“The Power Point, Findhorn”. Photo by Phila Hoopes.

Cosmologist Brian Swimme proposes a ritual or reminding practice in light of today’s creation story from science when he says:

The universe oozes with power, waiting for anyone who wishes to embrace it.  But because the powers of cosmic dynamics are invisible, we need to remind ourselves of their universal presence.  Who reminds us?  The rivers, plains, galaxies, hurricanes, lightning branches, and all our living companions. 

Swimme is seconded by Hildegard of Bingen who sang:

Everything in nature,
the sum total of heaven and of earth,
becomes a temple and an altar
for the service of God.

“Everything in nature” includes human nature, doesn’t it?  And good work is intrinsic to our nature and deserving therefore of consecration.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 245f. 

And from Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work, pp. 296f.

Banner Image: A Daily Meditation team member’s desk altar. Used with permission.

Do you consecrate your work?  How do you do that?  How might you do that?  How assist others to do the same?

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

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.

Upcoming Events

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3 thoughts on “Consecrating Our Work as a Ritual”

  1. Avatar

    I so agree with this—our work is our radical response to life and also our show of gratitude to life. I thank you for this teaching Matthew. I believe it is becoming the emerging theme of my newest play “La Posada.” And that everything we do is political. We either accept things as they are or we work for positive change. The Via Transformativa. To do nothing is a political act. I believe you taught me that.

  2. Avatar

    Dr. Fox
    This quote is a little late for the topic at hand, but it still resonates with me. “Wisdom is nothing but a preparation of the soul, a capacity, a secret art of thinking, feeling and breathing thoughts of unity at every moment of life”.
    Hermann Hesse

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