Greater Love than This: Navalny, Sister Dorothy, MLK, Jesus

We have been honoring the life, teachings and martyrdom of Sister Dorothy Stang, gunned down 19 years ago by powerful forces of greed and hatred bent on destroying the Amazon rainforest and peasant farmers.

One of Sister Dorothy’s playful drawings in her book Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen, authored by ICCS student Gabrielle Uhlein. Used with permission.

Now the world has learned of the death of Alexei Navalny, Russian prisoner of conscience and leader of the opposition to Putin. We know how he spoke out against the oligarchy now ruling Russia, releasing videos of their mansions, etc., how he was seriously poisoned, then saved in a German hospital, and nevertheless returned to Russia to carry on his fight. 

He was warned how dangerous that would be—even as Sister Dorothy was advised that returning to Brazil would be a dangerous move for a leader as visible as her. But she replied that she loved the forest and the peasants she was working with, and could not turn her back on them. Navalny said one must make sacrifices if one believes in one’s values strongly enough.

An excerpt from the Academy Award winning documentary “Navalny,” showing his final message to his country and the world. Video by Madman Films. (The full documentary is currently airing on Max (formerly HBO). 

Both Sister Dorothy and Alexei Navalny “loved something more than the fear of death” as MLK, Jr. put it, describing his decision to march for equality in spite of death threats. Both Navalny and Sr. Dot paid the ultimate price for their love.

Jesus said, “greater love than this no person has, than to lay down their life for their friends.” Navalny’s friends for which he laid down his life, were his fellow Russian citizens seeking to live freely. Sr. Dorothy’s were the peasants and the rainforest. 

His is a love story. So too is Sister Dorothy’s. So too was MLK’s and, with a similar ending, so too is the story of Jesus.

Pressure builds on the White House in the wake of Navalny’s death. Video by Good Morning America. 

A friend of Navalny, now living in exile from Putin’s Russia, said that he and many had hoped he would be the “George Washington” of modern-day Russia. “But now he is the Martin Luther King, Jr. of Russia instead.”

Meanwhile, the American Congress under Speaker Mike Johnson, beholden to a presidential candidate who admires Putin, is bestowing a gift on Putin the murderer: No funding for Ukraine resisting Putin’s war to swallow up their fledgling democracy.

Will American politicians stand up to Putin? Will they learn anything from the sacrifice of Navalny?

See Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society.

And Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth.

And Charles Burack, ed., Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Alexei Navalny (center front) marching in Russia’s anti-corruption protests in 2017. Photo by Evgeny Feldman. Wikimedia Commons. 

Queries for Contemplation

What parallels do you see between Sister Dorothy’s story and that of Alexis Navalny’s?

Recommended Reading

Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society

Visionary theologian and best-selling author Matthew Fox offers a new theology of evil that fundamentally changes the traditional perception of good and evil and points the way to a more enlightened treatment of ourselves, one another, and all of nature. In comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them. 
“A scholarly masterpiece embodying a better vision and depth of perception far beyond the grasp of any one single science.  A breath-taking analysis.” — Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

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.

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10 thoughts on “Greater Love than This: Navalny, Sister Dorothy, MLK, Jesus”

  1. Avatar

    Navalny chose to meet ‘worldly force with force’ but did not have an equipped army to so. He was outflanked before his return to the homeland that he loved, but one in which no longer existed in its prior or idyllic (?) form. What he may or may not have been able to accomplish in exile will never be known. Courage was not lacking nor absent in his life. He may be gone but the suffering of the ordinary Russian people remains with the force of a wave that is gathering strength. — BB.

  2. Avatar

    Not only do the Angels weep, but Mother Earth Herself weeps as well. Last week I created an alcohol ink painting in honor and celebration of Dorothy and her life of LOVE lived in the Amazon. As I gazed upon the finished painting, an image surprisingly emerged, which I had not intentional painted, but rather this image intuitively and fluidly revealed itself, through the creative process. It is an image of a woman, embedded in the Earth, reclining on her side, her head resting upon her outstretched arm… with a single tear falling from her eyes. Above her is a landscape scene of burnt and bleeding trees, the deep red blood soaking into the living essence of Mother Earth, whom weeps from the wounds inflicted upon her.

    Sometimes a painting and the creative process itself, becomes a prayer, spoken in images, shapes and colors rather than words. And so it is this little painting I offered as a gift of solidarity, lamenting with all those whom weep… as I also remembered the somewhat incomprehensible mysteries of the words in scripture… your weeping will be turned to joy!

    Somehow, Dorothy and many others… have lived into the depths, height, width and breadth of this mystery… experiencing and encountering this spiritual reality of the transforming power of LOVE.

    1. Avatar

      This sounds like a deep art as meditation practice indeed. Would you care to share it with the team at the DM and we could post it for others to meditate on? I for one would love to see it. Thank you for telling us about it.

      1. Avatar

        Yes I would love to see it too Jeanette and Matthew! I’m so happy Jeanette, that you surrendered yourself to let this creative work come through you. Imagining it from your description, the painting took me into solidarity, weeping the cost of the greed and heartless power of those who take only for themselves what they desire
        at the expense of the lives and wellbeing of many and our Mother Earth.
        It strengthens me to enter into solidarity with a deeper awareness of this love, courage and dedication of Nalvany,
        Sister Dorothy, MLK, Jesus and so many others who opened their hearts to save others. Many people care and enter into this by doing their daily work.
        Thank you Matthew for your work!
        This decision to act is the cross we encounter in our daily lives.
        We need the Spirit of love and each other to help carry and develop this vision of goodness and compassion towards others and ourselves which brings us wholeness, peace and joy!
        I pray each one of us may surrender whatever is holding us back so we too may enter into the Presence of this personal Living Love and can say,
        “Love made me do it.”

  3. Avatar

    Sadly, Alexis Navalny’s recent assasination by Putin is another martyr, like Sister Dorothy, for the cause of Love~Peace~Justice for humanity and the health of our Beautiful Sacred Mother Earth and all Her creatures, including ourselves, and Her essential abundance and nourishment. Faith in the Living Spirit of Our Source~Co-Creator’s LOVE~Wisdom~Truth~Peace~Justice~Healing~Strength~Transformation~Creativity~Beauty~
    Joy~Compassion~DIVERSE ONENESS Is Present in Our hearts/Souls/lives with one another to continue evolving and helping bring about/incarnate God’s ETERNAL Queendom~Kingdom on earth/Cosmos as it is in HEAVEN….

  4. Avatar
    Brigid Cannon, OP

    This may seem strange to some yet I learned this from one of my dear sisters. For anyone you meet or know or died unexpectedly while you were looking at your clock and it was 10 to 10 or 10 after 10 you could invite to be part of the 10 to 10 club. So many of the people I have invited have accepted when I shared with them this reason. The 10:10 club comes from Jesus’ own words in the words of John’s gospel. “I HAVE COME TO BRING YOU LIFE, LIFE IN ABUNDANCE.”

    And so now I have put Alexis Navalny and Sr. Dorothy in our 10 to 10 club.
    You can do this as well when you look at your watch or a clock and it 10 to 10 or 10 after 10 and invite others to the words of Jesus “ I HAVE COME TO BRING YOU LIFE, LIFE IN ABUNDANCE.”
    I see both Alexis and Sr. Dorothy STANG and so many others are bringing life to others abundantly in their lives and in their deaths to new life.
    May we nurture new life in all whom we meet this day.
    Blessings and peace,

  5. Avatar

    Navalny called his imprisoned a “space voyage” (according to the NYT)

    On Christmas, when he was moved to the remote Polar Wolf, he wrote: “I don’t say ‘Ho-ho-ho,’ but I say ‘Oh-oh-oh’ when I look out the window, where there is night, then evening and then night again.”

    In prison, he said he became a Christian, despite having been a “militant atheist” (as reported by the Catholic News Agency)

    In court, he quoted from the Beatitudes and said “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” And he said: “And so, while certainly not really enjoying the place where I am, I have no regrets about coming back, or about what I’m doing. It’s fine, because I did the right thing. On the contrary, I feel a real kind of satisfaction. Because at some difficult moment I did as required by the instructions, and did not betray the commandment.”

    And he said: “We are a very unhappy country. We’re in a vicious circle of unhappiness that we can’t escape from. But of course, it would be good to, and I am therefore proposing to change our slogan. It’s not enough for Russia to be free, Russia should also be happy. Russia will be happy,” he concluded.

    Joy and Justice, maybe Joy is Justice, or Justice is Joy. Also, maybe like Love, Joy creates its own path of reality…of which the invisible world co-creates with us in the physical.

    1. Avatar

      Thank you Hannah,

      The beatitudes give more meaning to his wish that Russia “be happy!” This speaks to me about living fully, which is what he did. Also, what you wrote causes me to reflect that perhaps the beatitudes landed in him as deep affirmation for the rightness he felt in his his actions, especially the one of returning to Russia at great risk to his life. To be happy is to listen deeply to what is exactly right for each of us, which our bodies know, if we take the time to listen–and it’s both easy and hard. Thank you again, Hannah. It’s rather wonderful that Navalny’s last admonition is for the path to happiness.

  6. Avatar

    And when will we stop sending financial aid & weapons to Israel, who in crystal clear terms, is literally eliminating the enemy?

    Before the death of Navalny it occurred to me to replace “in God we trust” with “in the elimination of enemies we trust.” Both USA & Russia grow the power of might while disempowering citizenry.

    I’m angry. Angry that we are not doing enough to stop children from having amputations & with no freezing. Angry that a Canadian MD volunteering in Gaza took out the eyes of 11 children in two weeks. Angry that an entire world is being traumatized into further violence as the only way out.

    Angry that the war tribunal will take decades to level a sentence of war crimes.

    Angry that South Africa’s call for immediate ceasefire to investigate the war crimes accusation was given two days’ press.

    Angry. Who in their right minds call this “defence”? On Oct 7 with $3B p.a. in weapons from USA, “defense” didn’t work! Peace work needs those $ vs mere donations!

    I lament,
    Mary Anne

    1. Avatar

      I want to thank and praise all the commentators on this page for rich contributions to this ongoing discussion. I am often moved to say this on reading the Comments section, but especially today. The wisdom shared is so valuable and it keeps me going with these daily meditations. Thank you all for sharing your wisdom and observations from within.

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