In July of 1988, after college, seminary and a switch to a different denomination, I was ordained as a minister in the United Church of Christ. Later that fall, I heard Matthew Fox speak at a minister’s convocation at the Claremont School of Theology in Southern California.
This event was just one month prior to Fox’s being formally silenced by the Vatican. Though the renegade Dominican priest was seen as a radical within the framework of the Catholic Church, his presentations rang true to my heart. I truly felt that his theology was the closest to my own of any I had ever heard.
Fox referred to his brand of theology as “Creation Spirituality”–a spiritual tradition which he sees as rooted in the Bible as well as in the writings of medieval Christian mystics such as: Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179); St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1181-1226); Mechtild of Magdeburg (1210-1280); Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274); Meister Eckhart (c.1260-1327); Julian of Norwich (1342-c.1415); and such modern individuals as Howard Thurman (1899-1981); Thomas Merton (1915-1968); poet and potter M. C. Richards (1916-1999); and poet Mary Oliver (1935-2019); among others.
It is a spiritual tradition which moves upon four paths: the Via Positiva, which is the path of awe and wonder at creation; the Via Negativa, which is the path of darkness and silence, suffering and letting go; The Via Creativa, which is the path of creative expression; and the Via Transformativa, which is the path of prophetic justice, compassion and celebration.
The four paths are not walked in consecutive order, but rather our lives weave in and out through them time and time again. These four paths provide the spiritual adventurer not only with a map for finding where one is on the spiritual journey, but a framework for understanding one’s deepest held beliefs about God and the universe.
To be continued
Queries for Contemplation
When was the first time you read a book by Matthew Fox, or heard him speak, or met him? What was the impact of his message?
Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality
Selected with an Introduction by Charles Burack
To encapsulate the life and work of Matthew Fox would be a daunting task for any save his colleague Dr. Charles Burack, who had the full cooperation of his subject. Fox has devoted 50 years to developing and teaching the tradition of Creation Spirituality and in doing so has reinvented forms of education and worship. His more than 40 books, translated into 78 languages, are inclusive of today’s science and world spiritual traditions and have awakened millions to the much neglected earth-based mystical tradition of the West. Essential Writings begins by exploring the influences on Fox’s life and spirituality, then presents selections from all Fox’s major works in 10 sections.
“The critical insights, the creative connections, the centrality of Matthew Fox’s writings and teaching are second to none for the radical renewal of Christianity.” ~~ Richard Rohr, OFM.
Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)
Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self
Books: Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality, and Confessions: The Making of a Post Denominational Priest.