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 (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
My 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.
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 – 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.
Of 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.”
*Judy Talvacchia is a chaplain and spiritual director in Boston, MA.
If you relate to Judy’s experiences, please share in Comments.