The Absence of Goodness and Absence of the Sacred

In yesterday’s DM we reviewed how the very first page of the Bible is a celebration of cosmology, a praise of creation as “good” and “very good.”  This is so clear and straightforward and direct that it is amazing that humans—and subsequent interpretations of the Bible—so miss it. 

Flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina across New Orleans is visible from Air Force One on Aug. 31, 2005. White House photo by Paul Morse on Wikimedia Commons.

How much of this missing of the primary meaning of the Bible lies at the roots of what humans are busy doing today to the earth—ignoring the suffering we have put her under; in denial about what is happening all around us as droughts, floods, hurricanes, rising of seas, abandoning of islands by humans who have dwelt there for thousands of years, and of course the most massive extinction spasm of creatures we have witnessed since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago?

Julian of Norwich, whom we invoked as just one among many powerful teachers of the creation spirituality tradition yesterday, tells us that the first duty of the soul is “to reverently marvel.” 

First Nations and allies struggle to defend the last sacred old-growth forest on Vancouver Island. Video by Mamas Movement; to support the action, click HERE.

Have we been “reverently marveling” lately?  I think not.  We have been busy raping and mining and taking from the earth with little or no thought of giving back.  Thus, planetary desecration.  Thus, eco-cide.  Thus, the killing of Mother Earth.

Julian also instructs us that “The holiest prayer [is] the loving prayer of thanksgiving.”  How present and real has been our thanksgiving for the gifts of existence, of the cosmos, of nature, of the Earth?  This is what the Sabbath is all about after all.  The story of the establishment of the “sacred Sabbath” is the culmination of the story of cosmology in Genesis 1. 

“Newest Wonder of the World: The Great Green Wall of Africa.” Ten nations across the African continent band together to plant a wall of trees to hold back the encroaching Sahara Desert. Video by Risen Africa

The Sabbath is an occasion for repose and peace in creation and also of thanksgiving for creation.  Aquinas says that the primary gratitude we give on the Sabbath is thanksgiving for creation.

We are making progress, hopefully, as we begin finally to wake up and look around us and see what destruction we have wrought.  At least one political party in America—and many others around the globe–is not in complete denial about the killing and rendering extinct of so many species that is happening daily in our acts of matricide and killing of mother earth.

Pope Alexander VI, whose “Doctrine of Discovery” bull justifying seizure of non-Christian lands is still used as international legal precedent. Painting by Cristofano dell’Altissimo on Wikimedia Commons.

We are paying the price still for fear that took over our species and western civilization in response to the bubonic plague in the 14th century where between 40 and 50% of the population of Western Europe was wiped out.  This pandemic had a profound effect on religion which, instead of honoring the goodness and sacredness of nature, fell back into a story of Fear of nature displacing Love of nature; of anthropocentrism displacing creation; of fear of death overriding  celebration of life; of redemption replacing creation as the first article of faith. 

Sad to say, it was this version of religion that accompanied the slave hunters to Africa and invaders of indigenous lands in the Americas and elsewhere as Europeans set sail in the late fifteenth century to build their empires.


Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 101, 109-124.   

And Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 41-44.

Banner Image: A coal bucket wheel gouges the earth for fossil fuels in an open pit mine while wind turbines serenely spin above trees. Photographer unknown; photo on Pixabay.

Do you “reverently marvel” on a regular basis?  What provokes that marveling in you?  How do you carry it into your work and relationships and citizenship?

Join Matthew Fox for a free, thought-provoking hour and Find Inspiration & Healing in the Radical Teachings of St. Hildegard: Discover the Uncommon Life of This 12th-Century Mystic to Reconnect to Nature & the Divine, Tuesday, June 1, at 3:00 pm Eastern(GMT/UTC-4). Register HERE.

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2 thoughts on “The Absence of Goodness and Absence of the Sacred”

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    Will the current pandemic lead to fear, denial and retrenchment or hope, expansion and higher consciousness?

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