In the African tradition, the appropriate response to our union with sacred creation is to celebrate it through music, ritual, poetry, dance.
Dona Marimba Richards (also known as Dr. Marimba Ani) reminds us that community is born of these responses to creation’s holiness all around us. She writes:
Few have understood what music is to us. Black music is sacred music. It is the expression of the divine within us.
Notice that not only nature around us is sacred, but human nature is sacred and the divine dwells within us as we express ourselves that through music, art, and ceremony. The Ground of being, once touched, wants to make joyful noise.
Ontologically, we gain meaning, force, and being through relationship with the universal life forces; by feeling ourselves to be a part of the whole. Our music manifests that relationship, as it puts us in tune with the universe. It explains to us the mysterious workings of the universe and ourselves as cosmic beings….As in ritual, in music the human and the Divine meet.
Not only music but dance too makes this union between nature and us sacred.
Through dance we experiencer reality as immediate to us; that is, we are identified with the universe.*
Besides celebration, another response to the sacredness of existence is justice and Maat. Dr. King reminds us of that.
In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church….Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists….
There was a time when the church was very powerful —…when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society…Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be ‘astronomically intimidated’ . . .
Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent — and often even vocal — sanction of things as they are.
King weeps over the failures of the church. He longs for the courage of the early church when Christians stood up to the Roman Empire, even if that stance was dangerous and brought the wrath of the empire upon them. He sees a living church as one that “transforms the mores of society.”
How much, if anything, has changed since King’s day? To what degree do churches still defend the status quo and “sanction things as they are”? How about voting rights for example? And the ecocide that is happening everywhere? Are white churches speaking out and acting on these moral emergencies? If not, why not?
Dona Marimba Richards, Let the Circle Be Unbroken: The Implications of African Spirituality in The Diaspora (Lawrenceville, NJ: Red Sea Press 1992), 37-39.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, p. 240.
And Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, p. 326.
Banner Image: “Ma’at, Angel of Truth and Order,” a mural in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, photographed by NYCGoeff on Flickr.
Celebration and Maat are another way of talking about mysticism (our Yes to life) and prophecy (our No to injustice that kills life). How are we doing? Do our rituals and ceremonies bring alive the Yes and No in us?
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
Join Matthew Fox for a thought-provoking 7-week course: Answer the Call for an Uncommon Life Through the Mystical Teachings of St. Hildegard, Tuesdays, 6/15 to 7/27. While the course has begun, registration remains open, with recordings of past classes available. Learn more HERE.
Join us for a Virtual Teach-in with Isa Gucciardi and Matthew Fox, hosted by Rev. Cameron Trimble.
August 13-14, 2021 (Fri-Sat)
Shamanism in Buddhism and Christianity
Session 1: Friday, August 13 at 4pm-6pm PT
Session 2: Saturday, August 14 at 9am-12pm PT
Session 3: Saturday, August 14 at 12:30pm-2:30pm PT