The Easter weekend is one of the most memorable holidays of the year. Those who rarely go to mass attend the service on Good Friday or Easter Sunday and thus renew the connection to the faith.
aith has been with me since my return to Ireland seven years ago and has been a binding mechanism back to the country and nation I didn’t really know well. As the Trappist monk Thomas Merton said, the discovery of his faith was his “seven-story mountain.” Like Merton, I lived a broad and varied life before I came to that of faith.
Now, when I work in the countryside, I think about the connection between religion and the environment: that the divine and the earth are connected, but also that there is more to it.
Looking at the cows indoors in the meadow after a long winter, I see that they are allowed to be in their true nature. The sheep are also at home in this world, and it seems as if the animals are exhaling collectively to be outside again.
The prayers I said when animals were in trouble during childbirth now seem to be answered with signs of new life everywhere.
A long time ago I read how the church taught that the earth is for man’s benefit and benefit. However, this mindset has created a plethora of resource industries that extract from the earth with no thought for the future.
Irish philosopher John Moriarty once told the story of seeing a mature tree with a friend. Moriarty was entranced by its magic and form, while his friend only saw the wood within. This story may be the problem with our way of seeing the world.
I have thought a lot about ecological theology during my walks on the farm and in the countryside, namely the idea or ideation connecting the divine and the environment, that there is a relationship between the religious and spiritual world and the degradation or restoration of the environment .
Ecotheology is both an old and a new idea. All major religions and beliefs have a fundamental relationship with the earth. Daoism, a belief structure I’m having a great time with, says that Daoists obey the earth and that the earth in turn respects heaven and heaven abides by the Dao.
Daoism teaches that people should help everything grow in its own way and that they should cultivate inaction to let nature be itself.
During my time in Australia working with Central Desert Aborigines, there was a geosophical approach to the world, namely an earth centered view. For Aboriginal Australians, the earth was what created it and what had to be sung into existence.
They didn’t own the land, they owned the land. It’s an interesting sight, especially to our western eyes. Through my research, I’ve found time and time again that all major faiths have eco-theological worldviews.
However, it seems that the Christian world had a different view of ecological theology. Some blame the extravagances of the modern world on the Judeo-Christian belief that mankind has dominion over all things and that in a sense all things are for our use and benefit.
This extractive thinking is best seen in the Western mindset, which directs dynamite against sacred sites in the Australian outback to gain access to commercial metals, or plants chainsaws and fires into the lungs of the world in Brazil.
This view has been challenged for Christians in recent years by Pope Francis, who in his work Laudato Si, began to redefine the connection between the environment and belief. Laudato Si is a short work about the environment, about our common home.
Around the time of his publication, Francis went so far as to say that man’s destruction of the environment is a sin.
Watching a documentary about the Pope last week, he spoke of how the poorest of the poor are not just any refugee in Yemen or Ukraine (although they are cherished peoples), but in fact the earth that was last thought for long time.
The climate is a common good, he continues, and is there for everyone. God has given man a special place in the world, but that doesn’t mean we can destroy that common good through our own pursuits.
A year ago, while researching a book project, I came across the term “solastalgia” by an Australian scientist at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales.
Solastalgia is a form of depression or stress caused by environmental changes in places we know. These changes can be caused by climate, natural disasters and extreme weather.
Laudato Si is perhaps the new way for Catholics – and there are over 1.2 billion of them in the world – to come to a new understanding of their common home.
On the farm, the fields are a canvas. I can cut down a tree or plant another. There is power in that, but I’m just walking this earth, just like those native peoples long ago. I have to respect it for the next generation and everyone who comes after.
This Easter weekend I will be thinking a lot about our connection to nature, our home, how I can try to walk the earth gently and better understand this new field of ecotheology.
Because now more than ever it is necessary if we are to tackle the big question of our generation.
To the trees and the holy ground. It still has much to teach us. I am willing to heed his call.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/inspiration-from-the-divine-could-lead-us-to-show-more-respect-for-our-sacred-earth-41557854.html Inspiration from the divine could lead us to show more respect for our sacred earth