Blue Moon and Laudato Si’

I occasionally visit a club that was the venue for dances I attended as a teen-ager. As I enter, I “hear” the strains of “Blue Moon” — a song I would otherwise never think about. Because the next Blue Moon will be July 31st, I wondered if I could connect blue moons and a document I have been spending a lot of time with lately (cf. this site’s Lent resources) : Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’.

Blue Moon, the Song

“Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone, without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own . . . and when I looked the moon had turned to gold!” I was happy to learn that composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Lorenz Hart originally wrote the song in 1934 as “Prayer” for an MGM film in which it was ultimately not used. It had several other titles and lyrics, but the version we (at least we of a certain age) know became a hit in 1949 and again in 1961. But it truly began as “Prayer” — propitious for me as I begin this blog!

Blue Moon, the Astronomical Event          moon_8-31-2012_Priya_Kumar_Muscat_Masqat_Oman

In the current definition, the term Blue Moon refers to a second full moon within a calendar month, an event that occurs once every two or three years. The identity of the moons was important in the ecclesiastical calendar (think Lent and Easter), and a year with a 13th moon complicated the process. There were names for only 12 moons. By identifying the 13th moon as a blue moon, the ecclesiastical calendar was able to stay on track.

The extra moon is rarely blue, a phenomenon that can be caused by the type of dust or smoke particles in the air that scatter blue light. I could not find the origin of why the extra moon was called blue, but it works well for this blog.

Sister Blue Moon and Laudato Si’

The popular expression “once in a blue moon” and lyrics in the haunting melody draw me to make a few connections between Blue Moon and Laudato Si’. Pope Francis’ encyclical is titled, begins with, and consistently builds on St. Francis of Assisi’s belief that all creation is one and each part is brother and sister to us. After Brother Sun, Francis mentions Sister Moon and stars, followed by Brothers Wind and Air, Sister Water, Brother Fire, culminating with Sister Earth, our mother. (So, I shall refer to Sister Blue Moon.) These constitute our Common Home for which Laudato Si’ implores our care.

That our Common Home is in big trouble is not news to readers of this blog. We might well feel “blue” when we consider all the problems Earth, with everyone and everything whose lives are  interconnected as part of it, face at this critical time.

Once in a Blue Moon

The Pope’s encyclical falls into that category, although it follows a splendid line of papal social encyclicals that began in 1891 with Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum on the Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor.  This encyclical is the first not to be titled in Latin, but in Italian. It is the first encyclical to be written on this topic (though many popes have written in concern for the environment and the poor). It is the first to be written by a Jesuit Pope, as Pope Francis has that distinction. It is the first to use inclusive language. It is the first to quote from not-Catholic sources such as the Earth Charter. And arguably it is the first to have received such interest, pro and con.

you saw me standing alone

Standing alone is one of the causes Pope Francis singles out as contributing to the devastation presently causing many to feel blue. (Not his words, of course!) Throughout the document he urges us to act in community and for the good of the global community: the common good, especially the poorest people and poorest parts of our interconnected common home. He recognizes, both from science and experience, how closely we are interconnected with one another and with all creation to follow us. Isolation does not exist in nature. No one is standing alone!

without a dream in my heart

Without a vision, the people perish, indeed. Pope Francis envisions a new economic and ecological world order where the goods of the Earth are shared by everyone, not just exploited by the rich. He echoes Thomas Berry’s hope for a community of subjects forming an emerging epoch when humanity would live in a mutually enriching relationship with the larger community of life on Earth. Was this not Jesus’ vision expressed in the Gospels? We have the dream in our hearts!

without a love of my own

Pope Francis consistently calls us to love one another, the “other” being all the rest of creation, especially the poor and disadvantaged. He uses the word “love” more than 70 times! He reminds us that it was God’s love that gave us this creation in the first place ( and ongoing) and that all of our Scripture writings tells us of the love that God has for us. We have a love of our own, but love by its definition must be shared!

when I looked the moon had turned to gold!

golden-moonGold symbolizes wealth used wisely. It is also the symbol of good health. We readers and implementers of Laudato Si’ might take it as a reminder of our call to turn this ailing world into a just and healthy common home, where wealth and the resources needed to acquire it are shared for the common good and the result is health for humans and all life on our endangered planet.

No matter what color we see when we look at Sister Moon, let us unite with others, keep clear the vision, and act in love to create a world where wealth is used wisely and people and planet gain their health.  To paraphrase St. Francis’ Canticle: All praise be Yours, my Lord, through Sister Blue Moon — and may we consistently act together to turn it to gold!

P.S.

I cannot omit St.Ignatius Loyola in this blog. His feast is celebrated on July 31st and his renowned Spiritual Exercises begin and end with a contemplation on divine love as experienced through all creation. It doesn’t seem a stretch to suppose that these meditations influenced our first Jesuit pope and his first encyclical.

Our Father in Aramaic

I confess: my least favorite English prayer-phrase — Our Father who art in heaven — is from the very prayer that Jesus taught us: the Our Father. But I would have liked the Aramaic version Jesus undoubtedly used. The English translation comes from a time when people did not question patriarchy or a three-tiered world, and I don’t live there any more. In my experience, people can KNOW that “God is everywhere,” but they still look up when they refer to “him” because we are conditioned to picture a man in the sky. Keeping God above creation makes it harder for people, e.g., to understand Pope Francis’ words in Laudato Si’: “We do not only exist by God’s mighty power; we also live with him and beside him.” (72)

About the language Jesus used 

UnknownFortunately for me and others like Shirley Favot,* who delight in knowing that the language Jesus used harmonizes with the world as science now understands it, Neil Douglas-Klotz published Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus (Harper & Row, 1990). He not only explains what the original Aramaic words mean, but explains the levels of meaning in the Aramaic language itself. He lets readers see the words written in Aramaic, he gives directions for saying them, and he offers suggestions for appropriate body prayers.

Douglas-Klotz tells us that each statement of sacred teaching must be examined from at least three points of view: the intellectual, the metaphorical, and the universal (or mystical). His phrase by phrase commentaries on the Our Father and the Beatitudes provide this rich fare. A very new question for me, when I read it shortly after its publication, was “What feelings do the sounds evoke?” He explains that body-resonance was important for those who first heard Jesus’ words.

“Heaven”

I was/am especially grateful for his explanation of “heaven” (which I included in Tuning to the  Divine: http://ecospiritualityresources.com/media/). “ ‘Heaven’ ” in Aramaic ceases to be a metaphysical concept  and presents the image of ‘light and sound shining through all creation.’ ” Wow!

“Father”

abwoon01aSo, if that’s what “heaven” meant to Jesus and his followers, what about the “Father” to whom he prayed? As he does with the others phrases, Douglas-Klotz offers a litany of possible translations. I appreciate them because I have long believed that, despite the advantages of using the metaphor “Father” for the un-nameable Mystery, its exclusive use contributes to anthropocentrism and to patriarchy/male dominance.

Additionally, using any one word exclusively for the unknowable can fool believers into thinking that they have captured the essence of the Mystery we also call God. This deprives believers of many other possibilities. Douglas-Klotz uses the following when translating Abwoon from the  Aramaic: Birther, Mother-Father, The Breathing Life of All, Source of Sound, Radiant One, Name of Names, Wordless Action, Silent Potency. While this list might not immediately appeal, trying other names — either to balance “Father” or to replace it temporarily — is sure to expand one’s understanding of the Holy One.

One Aramaic translation of the Our Father

What follows is the translation of the Our Father (KJV ) as found in Neil Douglas-Klotz’ Desert Wisdom: A Nomad’s Guide to Life’s Big Questions from the Heart of the Native Middle East (2010, ARC Books, www.abwoon.org), with gracious permission from the author:

O Breathing Life (Aramaic)

(an expanded, then condensed translation of Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4 from the Peshitta version of the Gospels)

O Breathing Life, your name shines everywhere!
Release a space to plant your presence here.
Envision your “I Can” now.
Embody your desire in every light and form.
Grow through us this moment’s bread and wisdom.
Untie the knots of failure binding us,
as we release the strands we hold of others’ faults.
Help us not forget our source,
yet free us from not being in the present.
From you arises every vision, power and song
from gathering to gathering.
Amen—May our future actions grow from here!

 

aramaic

*Shirley Favot, who lives in Canada, wrote: “I thought your website would be the perfect place to honour the deep story and to reclaim the “Aramaic Our Father” for us and for future generations . . . Jesus’ message of ‘The Companionship of Empowerment’ is so clear and hope-filled.” Since July 1st is Canada Day, I decided to post this for Shirley on that date.

Shirley first read the Aramaic Our Father on Diamuid O’Murchu’s web site under “Prayers”: http://www.diarmuid13.com/special-prayers. Neil Douglas-Klotz’ site is http://l.facebook.com/l/KAQHekVw4AQFX17J2pkuxfWJmCGZ5BeApUiwDsTlSk5d3Lg/www.abwoon.com

INCARNATION REVISITED

INCARNATION REVISITED: GROWING INTO ECOSPIRITUALITY

 

This guest blog by Judy Talvaccia* is adapted from Judy’s article in the newsletter of the Holy Child Associates, USA. Judy responds to a reflection about the spirit of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ), the congregation started by Cornelia Connelly  cc_round (http://www.mayfieldsenior.org/about/Cornelia-Connelly), of which Judy is an Associate — and I am a member. Readers will relate to her experiences with ecospirituality and also find enrichment for understanding Pope Francis’ enclyclical Laudato Si. 

The SHCJ Charism 

A charism is defined as “a specific grace, a free gift granted for the common good, for building up the Body and Kingdom of Christ in love.” Our wildly generous God gives an abundance of gifts to individuals and to communities – all in the service of bringing about the fullness of God’s reign of love.

The gift given to Cornelia, and through her to the SHCJ and to us, lies in the name Society of the Holy Child Jesus. The Incarnation roots and grounds us in the merciful God who became human as a vulnerable child. Through the Holy Child, we understand that nothing is too humble or hidden for divinity not to be present and active. The charism helps us to see God in the most unexpected people, places and things and to respond to the sacred presence we recognize.

Early Religious Education 

mary-baby-jesusMy religious education began in the pre-Vatican II Church. I learned  that the Incarnation was “God the Father sending his son down from heaven to save human beings from our sins.” In my experience, the focus of the Incarnation was on the person; that is, Jesus became human to free me and all human beings from the consequences of sin. That resonated with me since, from a very young age, I was sensitive to the needs of others and fascinated by what makes people tick, what makes them who they are.

I loved learning about other cultures – how different people can be and yet how much we have in common. That may be part of the reason why the charism of the SHCJ attracted me. It spoke to something very deep in me about finding God in anyone and everyone. I learned, as the article says, that “…nothing truly human is foreign.” Although I enjoyed and appreciated the non-human world, my passion was always people.

Creation Spirituality 

The recent insights of science and of creation spirituality have deeply challenged my lived experience of the Incarnation. My head tells me that much of what I am learning makes perfect sense. But try as I might, I don’t feel as passionate about ecological projects as I do about, for example, supporting children in the Dominican Republic. Even so, God has been drawing me slowly but surely towards a more expansive understanding of the Incarnation.

Two thoughts in the article spoke to me about the strategy God seems to be using in my spiritual journey. The idea that we have responsibility, not just for humans, but for “all that touches the human” has ignited my curiosity about what those things are and how they affect people. God is showing me that if I want to support people, I cannot do it without supporting the natural world.

But God draws me even deeper to see that “the expansion of our very selves, as well as of all creation are inextricably intertwined.” I am realizing that humans need to support the well being of the natural world for its own sake as well, if Love’s reign is to be accomplished. All of God’s creation needs to flourish!

 The Cosmic Christ 

The biggest stumbling block for me, however, is the concept of the Cosmic Christ weepingmotherofgodofthesignatnovgorod– the Christ who came to save the entire universe, the Christ whose Body includes all of creation. I believe in the resurrected Christ, living and active, but my image of him is still the man portrayed in the Gospels. I don’t want to give up a personal relationship with Jesus! I can’t relate to him as a disembodied cosmic force.

Fortunately, Jesus has been patiently teaching me and drawing me closer to his resurrected life. When I traveled to the Holy Land, I was struck by the commercialism of many of the pilgrim sites. It was hard at times to identify with Jesus in his life on this earth, in the face of so many distractions. I complained in prayer, “Why did I come here if I can’t be immersed in what your earthly life was like?” Jesus directed my attention to the reality around me as if to say, “I’m happy that you came to the land where I lived, but I also want you to see me as I exist today – in the people, places and things around you; this is my Body today!” Since then, I have become more aware of the risen Christ who lives and acts in all of creation. And to my surprise, the more I do that, the closer I feel to Jesus and to the God he embodies.

OroValleyWildFlowersOf course, it’s still a challenge – sometimes in the most unexpected ways. I was on retreat and walking along a beautiful country road. Wild flowers were in bloom everywhere. While admiring them, I thought about how Christ is present in each of them. But I could feel my spirit resist. “I don’t want a relationship with a flower petal when I want to be close to you, Jesus.” With sublime irony, Jesus responded to my spirit, “Don’t you experience a deeply personal connection with me in the Eucharistic bread and wine?” Touché!

Embracing the Unfolding Mystery 

So I willingly and joyfully, but with a hint of trepidation, join the Sisters in “embracing on a fresh level the mystery of Incarnation and Creation as united revelation of the greatness and goodness and Allness of God.” I am grateful for the confidence to respond generously to God’s invitation; to explore new facets of the Incarnation with trust that God is leading me to fuller life and love. I commit myself to be one of the “ones chosen now to make known the reality of the Incarnation ever being revealed and newly understood.”
Cake 1-3

*Judy Talvacchia is a chaplain and spiritual director in Boston, MA.

If you relate to Judy’s experiences, please share in Comments.