As members of the Teresian Association we wanted to respond to the invitation of Pope Francis and indeed the leadership of the ecumenical steering committee who plan and promote the Season every year.
Two quotations from St Teresa introduced the first part of the conversation. In the first, Teresa uses water as a metaphor for the four stages of prayer, revealing too her attentiveness to the natural world.
"I don't find anything more appropriate to explain some spiritual experiences than water… I am so fond of this element that I have observed it more attentively than other things.” The Interior Castle (IV, Ch 2:2).
The second refers to God’s creation and the natural world as an open book.
“It helped me also to look at fields, or water, or flowers. In these things I found a remembrance of the Creator. They awakened and recollected me and served as a book.” Life, (Ch 9:5)
Using some of the abundant resources available, we presented the history of the Season, from its beginnings in the Orthodox community thirty-one years ago, to this year.
In 2001, the World Council of Churches expanded the event from a day of prayer to the five-week Season that we now have. Catholics officially joined in 2015 under the leadership of Pope Francis, after the publication in June of Laudato Si’ ahead of the UN Paris Climate Summit. September 1st was named “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.”
Among the resources we availed of is the powerful short video message by the Pope, which had a big impact on all of us.
This first part of the presentation ended with the inspiring and thought-provoking words of Thomas Berry, the influential Christian eco-philosopher- 'geologian'.
“We need a spirituality that emerges our of a reality deeper than ourselves, a spirituality that is as deep as the Earth process itself…” Thomas Berry, “The Spirituality of the Earth,” in The Sacred Universe.
The scene thus set, we focussed on the joint message from the leaders of other Christian Churches which opens with a passage from Leviticus:
“You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you”. (Leviticus 25:10)
This year, the global reach of Covid19 revealed our shared human nature and the inter-connectivity of our economies, political structures, health care systems, food production chains, energy and transportation systems in devastating ways…as highlighted in the Leaders’ message:
Our vocation to protect and nurture life relates to the sustainability of ecological, economic, social and political systems. A just balance between these aspects of life must be maintained for the health of the earth and all creatures.
…God’s people were to dedicate a year to this ecological, social and economic restorative justice. A Jubilee for the Earth.
As we live into a post-COVID-19 world, can we imagine new just and sustainable ways of living that give the earth the rest it requires, that satisfy everyone with enough, that restore habitats and renew biological diversity?
In Ireland, the bishops proposed Cultivating Hope as the theme for this year. An inspiring and practical leaflet was produced, with many simple and feasible suggestions for action personally, in families and parishes. Click in the image to read the leaflet.
The session space opened then into a conversation where we spoke of the themes that emerged from these reflections. We shared our efforts to reduce consumption, reduce waste, avoid using plastic, as well as the awe and wonder of the natural world enjoyed by many of us during the restrictions resulting from Covid19.
We concluded our session by gathering our desires and hopes for creation into prayer, ending with the Our Father.
So, as we celebrate this season 2020, which continues until the feast of St Francis of Assisi, Sunday 4th October, we are invited to rejoice, to bear witness and to act.
“We are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he dreamed of when he created it and cooperate with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.” Pope Francis.
Kato Boylan, Matet Gayondato, Hilda Geraghty, Irealnd.