The Four Paths and Holy Week: A Meditation

This is Holy Week and today is Holy Thursday.  Holy Week is more of a liturgical art form to remind us of the events surrounding Jesus’s last days than it is a literal chronology of the week, as Biblical scholars remind us.

“The Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem” by Friedrich Overbeck, 1824. Wikimedia Commons.

I find it useful to look at the week in light of the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality.  On Palm Sunday the week begins with “Hosannas” and triumphs of a humble kind.  The donkey plays a significant role amidst branches gathered from trees, shouting, and hopes of the people.  It seems quite jubilant. (Via Positiva)

The gathering for a Passover meal and remembrance of deliverance play a significant role alongside a specially prepared meal in the spirit of the ancestors.  Good dining together is a sign of the kingdom after all.

John’s Gospel reports conviviality and communal love.  There we learn of the act of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples and inviting them to do the same.  “Happiness will be yours if you act accordingly,” he says (Jn 13: 17).

Pope Francis visits Italian prison for traditional Holy Thursday service, creating a stir by washing the feet of prisoners including women and Muslims. ABC News

At this same supper, as John presents it, he offers a new commandment: love one another: just as I have loved you, you also must love one another.

Repeated words of panentheism resound in his teachings: I am in the Father and the Father is in me….He is with you, he is in you….You will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.

I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser…. Make your home in me, as I make mine in you….I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty…It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit…As the Father has loved me so I have loved you, remain in my love.

Peace is offered: Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

“The Living Bread” Sculpture by Paola Pisani. Reproduced in The Stations of the Cosmic Christ, with permission.

Joy follows: I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete…love one another, as I have loved you.  A person can have no greater love than to lay down their life for their friends.

Via Positiva aplenty in the first day of the week and at the Last Supper.

But then things changed; the Via Negativa enters amidst betrayal and anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane. Suffering and a cruel death at the hands of the empire dominate the next 24 hours.

And on Sunday, the Via Creativa breaks through.  Resurrection overcomes death.  Imagination triumphs.

See Matthew Fox, Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality.

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

Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus, Stations of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 89-96, 196.

Banner Image: “I am the Vine, You are the Branches.” St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, Riesling, Germany. Photo by Gerd Eichmann on Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

Does applying the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality to Holy Week work for you?  What happens from that for you?  (The Fourth Path of course is most explicitly present in Pentecost which comes 40 days later.)

Recommended Reading

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story

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.

Stations of the Cosmic Christ
By Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus.

This is a book of meditations on the Cosmic Christ, accompanying the images of 16 wonderful clay tablets by Javier Ullrrich Lemus and M.C. Richards. Together, these images and meditations go far beyond the traditional Stations of the Cross to inspire a spirit awakening and understanding of the cosmic Christ Consciousness, Buddha consciousness, and consciousness of the image of God in all beings, so needed in our times.
“A divinely inspired book that must be read by every human being devoted to spiritual and global survival. It is cosmically brilliant.” — Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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4 thoughts on “The Four Paths and Holy Week: A Meditation”

  1. Avatar

    ‘The Way, the Truth and the Life’ is an experiential journey and I am not sure it can be restricted or defined as a four-fold definition. The infinite and the limitless must truly be considered infinite and limitless, lest we place narrower, intellectual restrictions on our journey and miss out on the deeper Mystical experiences. — BB.

  2. Avatar
    Brigid Cannon, OP

    Thank you, Matthew for these four paths as part of our journey in life. They are not static as I find they have helped me over the years to walk each of the paths with Christ in His life, death and Resurrection and Pentecost in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The cycle goes on in our lives until one day we shall see God in love face to face. I have shared these paths with others in spiritual companionship over the years and in retreats. Many retreatants expressed gratitude. Attending a workshop on Original Blessing many years ago and seeing the four paths in my own life and others has graced myself and others to a deeper understanding of the Christian journey and has transformed our lives. Blessings to you, Matthew.

    1. Avatar

      My theology has been shaped by the Four Paths, ever since I read “Original Blessing” in 2000. Thank you for the gift. And yes, it works very well for Holy Week. Just a thought, but perhaps the fourth path is also present in the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus in John 20:22. As he breathes the Holy Spirit on the disciples, he sends them out to do his work and the work of God, saying “Peace”–that is, in my reading, “Shalom”. There is the fullness of the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost, but I also like the theme of transformation and empowerment in this particular post-resurrection appearance. Besides, it gives me another angle for my sermon on April 7th!

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