Advent is all about pregnancy. And if any religion honors pregnancy, it would be Goddess spirituality, don’t you think? If I could go back to myself, circa seven years ago, I might say this: “Enjoy your first Advent as a Catholic. But keep it grounded. Anchor it in the good earth, the silence of the soil, the pulsing heartbeat within all living flesh. The only Advent worth celebrating is an earthy Advent, just as the only spirituality worth practicing is an earthy spirituality.”
Place is about community and change. Some places lead to collective action, either because they allow people to gather and protest together, or because they represent a struggle. When urban planning is done right, it can create opportunities rather than isolation. Public spaces like plazas and parks draw a diverse range of people, giving us opportunities to meet other people in our communities. Planners can involve the whole community in the design of communal places, and when they do, civic participation rises. Ask people to take responsibility for planning community spaces, and we do that in ways that make community more sustainable.
It’s hard to be grateful for the blessings in our lives when I’m so frightened about how we, as a culture, over-consume those very blessings. For me, it is a challenge to remain anchored enough in gratitude that I can consciously make choices consistent with my desire to live a sustainable, rather than hyper-consumptive, life. The temptation of the fear is a temptation to despair. And I suspect that many Americans, and perhaps folks from other parts of the planet, have already succumbed to that temptation. When we stare into the horrifying implications of climate change, the reaction of dread and anxiety that we feel is, in my opinion, very much related to the old Hebrew idea of “the fear of the Lord.” It is a fear we feel because we know in our guts we’ve done something wrong. So what do we do now?
Our discussion has been so narrow, our mainstream discourse so dismissive of third party candidates and their platforms, that most voters don’t even know what questions they’re asking or which solutions they’re offering. When the only perspectives the gatekeepers allow to flood the national airwaves are those of Big Red and Big Blue, the only reaction left to many observers is to pick apart their positions, ignore their overwhelming similarities, and squabble over their minute differences. But when a third, or fourth, or fifth, or five hundredth perspective is allowed to come forward, championed by some passionate groups that coalesce around a common goal or a common cause, suddenly we are not faced with a false and unrealistic black-and-white choice. Suddenly there are many shades of grey.
We need to be telling the truth. Harming the environment is not just “wrong” or “bad.” It’s evil. It is suicidal. It is evidence of a profound sickness within the human condition. It is sinful, it is blasphemy, that we persist in harming our environment in greedy and hyperconsumptive ways. Many non-Christians will recoil at this emphatic religious language, I know; and many Christians, lacking Hildegard’s prophetic vision, will simply be unable to accept the idea that despoiling the environment is sinful, let alone a form of blasphemy. Well, forgive me for taking an unpopular position here, but I have to be true to the dictates of my own conscience, even though I recognize, with sorrow and humility, that I am party to this global dynamic of the blaspheming of nature.
As I practice commitment to my Work and this seasonal cycle, I realize that I am centering myself in time and space. I am at the center of the ongoing cyclical spiral of the Wheel, where time ebbs and flows according to the great song of the world, the stories we have told since the beginning of memory, where space is defined not by our walls and doorways but by the beating pulse of the earth. Between these celebrations, I slip and slide out of sync with the cycle, concentrating in my daily practice on centering within myself and within my home, until the next ritual, the next holy day brings me back into alignment with the universe.
Hildegard sees a direct link between Divinity, nature, and sacrality. No impassable chasm between God and creation in this woman’s theology. And for this reason, I’ve been rather boldly predicting that Hildegard, as a newly minted Doctor of the Church, could eventually even supplant Francis of Assisi as the patron saint of the environment. Francis’s feast day is October 4 — just three days before Hildegard’s elevation to Doctor of the Church — so it seems to me that maybe this month is the time for a sanctity smackdown, as we consider just who deserves to be the first among patron saints of nature (yes, it’s okay for there to be more than one).