Reflection of the Week - 15th November 2022

By Richard Rohr

Posted in Faith

Nature: Our First Ancestor

Once we know that the entire physical world around us, all of creation, is both the hiding place and the revelation place for God, this world becomes home, safe, enchanted, offering grace to any who look deeply. —Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ

Patty Krawec, an Anishinaabe and Ukrainian writer and activist, invites us to consider the land itself as our original ancestor:

I want us to consider our relationship with land. . . . To think of ourselves as a part of creation rather than apart from it. What if the land is a being in its own right? That concept is not as foreign as you might think. And what if the land and all that grows from it and on it and in it are sentient beings in their own right? . . .  

When I say that the land is my ancestor, that is a scientific statement: I want to reflect again on this claim by Dr. Keolu Fox, a Kānaka Maoli anthropologist and genomic researcher. The land itself and the conditions of that land, like altitude and climate, impact our genome just as our human ancestors do. We are born on it, die on it; we come from it and return to it. The land and the waters, oceans and rivers, are part of us, relatives and ancestors in a very real way. . . .

Our emotions have a physical response. We feel sadness, and our body responds by crying. In the ancient Middle East, drought was often connected with mourning as the land’s physical response to an emotional state. Just as a Hebrew mourner would fast and pour dust over their head and body, so, too, the land expresses her grief by fasting and covering herself in dust. “Human action has caused desolation and destruction,” Mari Joerstad writes. “Further proof of human perfidy is their inattentiveness to the suffering of other creatures. The earth is left with no option but to cry directly to YHWH.” [1] . . .

The land mourns, but it also responds with joy. The same prophets who describe a land fasting and covering herself with dust in response to human wrongdoing and harm also describe beautiful scenes of rejoicing and jubilation upon the return of the people. “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom,” the prophet Isaiah says [Isaiah 35:1].

Krawec tells her readers of an ancient Anishinaabe prophecy that envisioned a choice between two paths for the future: one scorched and barren, the other green and fertile:

Remember the two paths of the Seventh Fire—one parched and blackened and the other green and lush. How we prepare now will determine what comes next: either a healing fire that brings wild strawberries and lush pathways or a charred landscape that cuts our feet. For Indigenous people, that means holding on to the knowledge of our ancestors. For the light-skinned people, that means making the right choices about how to live.

References:

[1] Mari Joerstad, The Hebrew Bible and Environmental Ethics: Humans, Nonhumans, and the Living Landscape (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019, 2021), 143. Emphasis added by Krawec.

Patty Krawec, Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining Our Future (Minneapolis, MN: Broadleaf Books, 2022), 126, 136–137, 138, 142.
Source: © Richard Rohr 4/11/2022 Center for Action and Contemplation (cac.org)
 

 


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