Thomas Berry on Fox, Creation Spirituality and Cosmic Liturgy continued

Thomas Berry continues his exposition of myself as shaman and sets it in a context of “what it means to be human” and of what he calls the “Great Liturgy of the Universe” and our efforts with the Cosmic Mass to revitalize liturgy.

Young ethiopian man dancing. Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

To preserve the authenticity of what it is to be human in a universe that has from the beginning been made for celebration might be considered the essential message that Matt Fox has been presenting for these past thirty [now fifty] years.  To elucidate this message he had identified the major Christian personalities of the past who have articulated this vision in its most brilliant form: Eckhart, Hildegard of Bingen, the Rhineland mystics and Thomas Aquinas….

Berry believes the loss of the sacredness of the wild occurred at the time of the “great shock” of the Black Death in the 14th century. 

A sense of alienation from the natural world was developed at this time.  The people had no explanation for what was happening.  They knew nothing of germs.  They could only figure that the world had grown wicked.  God was punishing the world.  Confidence in the natural world as the basic mode of divine presence was shaken.  A new emphasis was placed on redemption out of the world.

Statue of Julian of Norwich, Norwich Cathedral, by David Holgate FSDC. Photo by rocketjohn on Wikimedia Commons

I incorporate these important observations in my recent book on Julian of Norwich who carried the message of “God is the goodness in nature” on throughout the time of the Black Death.  An amazing exception to the picture Berry paints!

Berry continues:

The incapacity of the settlers to appreciate the importance of wildness can be seen in an event that occurred on a small island of the Alaskan coast where the Wrangell Indians lives.  In 1879 John Muir had gone to Alaska from his California home. Where there he was invited by the Indians to be present at a ceremonial dance celebrating the pervasive sacred presence throughout the wilderness area of the continent.  The leader went through the hall strewing white downy feathers over the floor as a blessing to everyone present.  Then in turn the individual performers appeared dressed in a variety of costumes to make the wild animal forms present to the assembly.  One observer tells us that Muir was fascinated because the presentation was so perfect that he felt ‘he was actually watching bear, deer, seal and salmon indoors.’

At Standing Rock Reservation, veterans take a knee before indigenous leaders and ask forgiveness on behalf of the United States. Featuring Leonard Crow Dog and Wesley Clark, Jr. originally posted to YouTube by Oceti Sakowin Camp.

After the dance came the moment when the Indians gave away all of their costumes explaining that they would never again dance in this manner.  They had learned from the missionaries that this manner of celebrating the wild was not the right way.  Abandonment of their ceremonials was necessary for their entry into the truly sacred world of the missionaries.  

I think of this incident in the late 19th century as a great loss not only for the Indians but also for us, since it reveals how distorted had become the Christian sense of the sacred.  I think of Matt Fox in this context as one of those persons in more recent times who seeks to bring back this sense of the Great Cosmic Liturgy that has been sustained over the centuries by the indigenous peoples.  While the ‘civilized’ persons of the world have abstracted themselves into staid liturgies that have lost their primordial vitality.”*

*Thomas Berry in Mary Ford Grabowsky, ed., The Unfolding of a Prophet: Matthew Fox at Sixty (Berkeley, CA: 2000), pp. 63f., 67f.

See also: Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 20-44. 

And Matthew Fox, “The Cosmic Mass: Reinventing Worship and Religion,” in Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Postdenominational Priest, pp. 363-376.

Banner Image: Creation Spirituality Artists Rev. Jean Ando and  Ellen Kennedy leading body prayer at a Matthew Fox /Susan Coppage Evans Via Positiva Retreat in Boulder CO. .

Do you agree with Berry that something great was lost when missionaries squelched the earth-based ceremonies of indigenous peoples?  Can we develop new rituals that bring back our sense of the whole?  (Consider the Cosmic Mass as an effort to do that.)  

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

Share this meditation


Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox is made possible through the generosity of donors. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation

Search Meditations





Receive our daily meditations

10 thoughts on “Thomas Berry on Fox, Creation Spirituality and Cosmic Liturgy continued”

  1. Avatar

    A deep concern for the plight of Nature and the loss of our “wildness” made me devote my professional work to environmental and wildlife conservation. But this field, in trying to be science-based, abandoned all sense of Sacredness. And, without a sense of Sacredness, I don’t believe we can heal the wounds we’ve inflicted on Nature and on ourselves.

    For years I’ve been searching for a way to bring back the Sacred to the center of the environmental discourse. I’ve been searching for a solid spiritual framework that would connect science and mysticism; animal and human; East and West; ancient and future… Fox’s meditations are what I’ve been looking for. They help give clarity and cohesiveness to disjointed ideas and intuitions I’ve had about the “big questions” but could not properly articulate until now.

    Thank you for sharing these profound and relevant insights. What wonderful work you do. I hope you can convey my gratitude to Matthew Fox himself.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Monica, you are right. Without a sense of the sacredness of Nature, I also “don’t believe we can heal the wounds we’ve inflicted on Nature and on ourselves.” And I believe that Creation Spirituality gives us such a spiritual form that does recognize nature is sacred, celebrates it, and also encourages environmental justice!

  2. Avatar
    Peter LeBlanc

    In celebrating the feminine
    side of a loving, living, God, we must do so in an act of service to those creatures who are female. The service of Life from a living God in a conscious living Cow, for example. We on the other hand need to stop our exploitation of unneeded, unhealthy food, causing the life long suffering of this female animal and set it free to live its Life and be with its young. Deacon’82 Environment and Global Interdependence.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      I agree totally with you Peter! Celebrating the feminine definitely includes cows, which are females. They too need not to be exploited just as human women shouldn’t be. We all need to be free!

  3. Avatar

    Thomas Berry’s words about you Matthew seem right on. Creation spirituality woke my slumbering being. It was so much bigger and richer than what I had been raised with in the Catholic Church. The idea of wildness resonates with my inner wild child and wild beingness. It was an authentic summation and tribute to you, Matthew. Between you and Jim Roberts my faith was kindled and not lost. Thank you so very much.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Indeed, Thomas Berry’s words were right on! Your works remind me of Immanuel Kant who upon reading Hume said that he “woke him up from his dogmatic slumbers!” And so I am glad that Matthew “woke your slumbering being.” May God bless you as you continue on your spiritual journey!

  4. Avatar

    When a human realizes their own indigenous nature, respect and reverence is the only language spoken.

  5. Avatar

    Giving up indigenous culture and customs is a great loss. By trying to blend into modern civilization they actually became less civilized in the true sense of that word. Their loss was our loss too. We had so much to learn from ancient ways.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Ron, thank you for your comment. Yes, is is our loss if we lose what the ancient ones had to share. That is one of the greatest gifts that Matthew gives us in the “pre-modern” creation saints such as Hildegard, Eckhart and Julian. More than this he also shares with us various indigenous teachers such as David Paladin and Buck Ghost Horse. And his book CREATION SPIRITUALITY:LIBERATING GIFTS FOR THE PEOPLES OF THE EARTH he uses lessons he had learn in third world countries to bring us lessons to learn for our world.

Leave a Comment

To help moderate the volume of responses, the Comment field is limited to 1500 characters (roughly 300 words), with one comment per person per day.

Please keep your comments focused on the topic of the day's Meditation.

As always, we look forward to your comments!!
The Daily Meditation Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join us in meditation that supports your compassionate action

Receive Matthew Fox's Daily Meditation by subscribing below: