Yesterday we considered some teachings from the Jewish tradition about how animals are teachers of spirituality. We need wisdom and spiritual teachings today as individuals and as communities. So we continue to search such wisdom from our spiritual traditions and today we consider some Christian teachings.
First of all, Jesus, was very much a person of the earth and a keen observer of animals—birds and animals, sheep and goats, an ox that needs help on the day of Sabbath, along with wolves, doves, sparrows, snakes and fish (and fishermen) and so much more show up in his teachings.
Indeed, Jesus most likely spent his adolescence with his mentor John the Baptist in the wilderness where, in his day, lions dwelled! Jesus learned to co-exist with lions–a pretty good preparation for what was to follow later in his public life.
Hildegard of Bingen tells us that “it is God whom humankind knows in every living thing.” Every being is another Christ, an expression of the Cosmic Christ therefore.
Meister Eckhart says that “every creature is a word of God and a book about God.” He says if he spent enough time with a caterpillar, he would never have to prepare a sermon because one caterpillar is so full of God.
He praises horses loose in a meadow this way: If you were to let a horse run about in a green meadow, the horse would want to pour forth its whole strength in leaping about the meadow. So too it is a joy to God to have purse out the divine nature and being completely into us who are divine images.
And he declares that if he were alone and feeling afraid in a desert, he would want to have an animal with him such as a dog. Let those who bring about great wonders in big, black books take an animal—perhaps a dog—to help them. The life within the animal will give them strength. For equality gives strength in all things.
Why is this so? Because so noble, so full of pleasure and so powerful is life itself….The life within the animal will give one strength. For equality gives strength in all things.
Indeed “God loves all creatures equally and fills them with his being. And we should lovingly meet all creatures in the same way.”
Animals are among the many original blessings in our lives and with whom we share this blessed planet, itself amazingly original as we are scouring the universe looking for a parallel planet.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Meditations with Meister Eckhart, p. 29. See Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint For Our Times, pp. 11-24.
To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Queries for Contemplation
What stories do you have to tell about animals as original blessings and/or as your spiritual director?
Meditations with Meister Eckhart: A Centering Book
A centering book by Matthew Fox. This book of simple but rich meditations exemplifies the deep yet playful creation-centered spirituality of Meister Eckhart, Meister Eckhart was a 13th-century Dominican preacher who was a mystic, prophet, feminist, activist, defender of the poor, and advocate of creation-centered spirituality, who was condemned shortly after he died.
“These quiet presentations of spirituality are remarkable for their immediacy and clarity.” –Publishers Weekly.