Week of 6/19-24/2023: Generosity, Prayer & Praise

June 19, 2023. The Generosity of Nature and the Model it Sets for Humanity
We are meditating on Generosity as a sign of holiness in our time. Here, we explore the abundant generosity of Nature. Hafiz, a Sufi mystic from the 14th century, understood this when he wrote: Even after all this time/The sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.”/ Look what happens with a love like that,/It lights up the whole sky. Meanwhile, human beings have been foolishly contributing to climate change which is wreaking havoc with the natural world. In order to restore balance, humans need to step up and be as generous as our Earth and cosmos.

Our generous sky. Photo by Bodomi. Wikimedia Commons.

June 20, 2023. Generosity and Extravagance in Nature and Society
We continue to explore the generosity of Nature. Annie Dillard writes: “If the landscape reveals one certainty, it is that the extravagant gesture is the very stuff of creation.” Are we as openhanded, bighearted, and large-souled as Nature is? Indigenous communities can be a model for us. They follow the tradition of “give-away,” in which useful and even beloved possessions are given away to others. Are we so generous with our “stuff”?

An Alaskan Athabascan Native explains the practice of the Potlatch, or give-away. Video by Sea and Bill Peterson

June 21, 2023. Generosity, Extravagance, Health Care, Compassion
On the one hand, we have the openhearted generosity of Nature. On the other hand, we have the lack of generosity and compassion that reveals itself in certain politicians and corporations. For instance, we are saddened by the states which are purging Medicaid rolls following the pandemic, and we are angered by the greed of the pharmaceutical industry which makes outrageous profits from people’s suffering. Bernie Sanders tells us that they have “much higher profit margins than any other industry” and that it is a “horrifying, barbaric and dysfunctional system.” We would all do well to practice what Thomas Merton preaches: “The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living things, which are all part of one another and all involved in one another.” 

June 22, 2023. Expansion and Immensity: The Universe and Us
Poet Ernesto Cardenal writes that “the greatest discovery of the twentieth century is the expanding universe.” The opposite of expansion is contraction, which is usually the result of fear. Unfortunately, many of our fundamental religions are caught in that cycle of fear and contraction. But the message of the universe is expansion, and the message of Jesus is love, which is expansive. Joy is also expansive, as is creativity. French philosopher Gaston Bachelard suggests that we are wired for intimacy, intensity and immensity, i.e., expansive.

Amazing Journey from Earth to the End of the Universe. Video by CoconutScienceLab.

June 23, 2023. A Cosmic Homecoming & Other Spiritual Insights from Ernesto Cardenal
In this DM we explore more of the great cosmic wisdom of Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal, who wrote the epic Cantico Cosmico, or The Cosmic Canticle. For instance, he tells us that all the appetites and anxieties of humans, our eating habits, our sexuality, our friendships, are one single appetite and one single anxiety to achieve union with one another and with the cosmos…. Also: We have come from the heart of God/And are as much a part of God/as the fetus is a part of the mother./And we all tend to return to God/As humanity tends to return to the maternal womb.

In this memoriam for Ernesto Cardenal, he shares some of his glorious cosmic poetry. PBS NewsHour

June 24, 2023. Cardenal on Prayer, Body, and Gratitude
Cardenal offers this understanding of prayer: Prayer is nothing more than getting into intimate contact with God. It is communication with God, and as such it need not be expressed in words, nor even articulated mentally. One can communicate with a glance of the eyes, with a smile, with a sigh, as well as by a human act. Even…the painting of a picture, or a look toward heaven on the taking of a drink of water [can be prayer]. Prayer is praise; it is thanks. As Matthew says, “Prayer is a radical response to life.”

Banner image: Praise for the world. Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

Recommended Reading

Christian Mystics: 365 Readings & Meditations

As Matthew Fox notes, when an aging Albert Einstein was asked if he had any regrets, he replied, “I wish I had read more of the mystics earlier in my life.” The 365 writings in Christian Mystics represent a wide-ranging sampling of these readings for modern-day seekers of all faiths — or no faith. The visionaries quoted range from Julian of Norwich to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Thomas Merton to Dorothee Soelle and Thomas Berry.
“Our world is in crisis, and we need road maps that can ground us in wisdom, inspire us to action, and help us gather our talents in service of compassion and justice.  This revolutionary book does just that.  Matthew Fox takes some of the most profound spiritual teachings of the West and translates them into practical daily mediations.  Study and practice these teachings.  Take what’s in this book and teach it to the youth because the new generation cannot afford to suffer the spirit and ethical illiteracy of the past.” — Adam Bucko, spiritual activist and co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation for Homeless Youth.

Prayer: A Radical Response to Life
How do prayer and mysticism relate to the struggle for social and ecological justice? Fox defines prayer as a radical response to life that includes our “Yes” to life (mysticism) and our “No” to forces that combat life (prophecy). How do we define adult prayer? And how—if at all—do prayer and mysticism relate to the struggle for social and ecological justice? One of Matthew Fox’s earliest books, originally published under the title On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear: Spirituality American StylePrayer introduces a mystical/prophetic spirituality and a mature conception of how to pray. Called a “classic” when it first appeared, it lays out the difference between the creation spirituality tradition and the fall/redemption tradition that has so dominated Western theology since Augustine. A practical and theoretical book, it lays the groundwork for Fox’s later works.
“One of the finest books I have read on contemporary spirituality.” – Rabbi Sholom A. Singer

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