You ate WHAT?

Pick a food. Let’s say pancakes. Basic ingredients include flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk. You want sustainably sourced and fresh ingredients, yet each component has an ancient history.

Like human life, each of those ingredients dates to the beginning of the Cosmos 13.8 billion years ago, the star-bursts that resulted in our solar system, and the 4.5 billion years since our home planet, Mother Earth, started evolving! Like humans and all life, each has an approximate time frame woven within the story of Earth. Amazing, no? Over the centuries, humans created many religious ceremonies that require, and celebrate, food — both consecrated and not.

Here’s an overview of the stories of pancake ingredients:

Wheat is the result of several grass species that date to about 10,000 B.C.E. – 12,000 years ago. However, plant life first appeared on land between 495 and 443 million years B.C.E. Some research even dates it to about 700 million years ago. As Robin Wall Kimmerer reminds us in Braiding Sweetgrass, “Plants were here first and have had a long time to figure things out. … Not only do they feed themselves, but they make enough to sustain the lives of all the rest of us.”

Baking powder is a dry chemical leavening agent, a mixture of a carbonate or bicarbonate and a weak acid.  Use of modern baking powder began in the mid-nineteenth century, but a sodium bicarbonate and sodium chloride solution was used over a thousand years ago in Ancient Egypt.

Salt was in general use long before the beginning of recorded history. The earliest known treatise on pharmacology was published in China around 2700 B.C.E.  All life has evolved to depend on its chemical properties to survive.

Eggs commonly  come from chickens — but some dinosaurs laid eggs, as do ostriches! Whether the egg or the chicken came first will remain a puzzle, as will the certain date of which one was first consumed as food. Chickens were eaten in China about 10,000 years ago, and in Europe in the first century B.C.E. Jungle fowl were domesticated in India by 3200 B.C.E. Records from China and Egypt show that fowl were laying eggs for human consumption around 1400 B.C.E., and there is archaeological evidence for egg consumption dating back to the Neolithic age.

Milk in the U.S. usually comes from cows that trace their beginnings to about 8000 B.C.E. People began drinking milk about 7,500 years ago.

 Recent history

Each of these components is threatened in our times. Among the problems are toxic pesticides and fertilizers, genetically modified crops, factory farmed crops and animals, land and water pollution, climate damages (droughts, floods, fires), mono cropping, and damage from mining.

Yet, even a poisoned and misunderstood Mother Earth tries to feed us, and many Earth-lovers respond by lobbying for better laws to protect her, by purchasing organic and fair trade food, by composting, by trying to save the bees and the butterflies, the soil and the water.

Care might increase if everyone better understood and valued the history of our food, the fact that everything we eat was living before it unknowingly “gave its life” for us, and our complete interdependence and “inter-being” with what we eat. The following poem, by Melissa Studdard, helped me do those three things:

I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast

—After Thich Nhat Hanh

It looked like a pancake,
but it was creation flattened out —
the fist of God on a head of wheat,
milk, the unborn child of an unsuspecting
chicken — all beaten to batter and drizzled into a pan.
I brewed my tea and closed my eyes
while I ate the sun, the air, the rain,
photosynthesis on a plate.
I ate the time it took that chicken
to bear and lay her egg
and the energy it takes a cow to lactate a cup of milk.
I thought of the farmers, the truck drivers,
the grocers, the people who made the bag that stored the wheat,
and my labor over the stove seemed short,
and the pancake tasted good,
and I was thankful.

 

I (Terri) add a grateful: Amen.

Ash Wednesday 2018 Stardust Ritual

Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentine’s Day this year, and what better way to “ground” Lent than with a holiday reminding us of the importance of love, family, community. The official liturgical readings and Valentine’s Day cards focus on the human family; this would be a great year to expand our inclusion of all people to  the rest of creation.

“Brothers and sisters,” the 2nd liturgical reading begins, and we usually think of human ones. Let’s stretch it to include thoughts from Pope Francis, who begins Laudato Si’ by quoting St. Francis: “Our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.” (par. 1) Pope Francis adds in the next paragraph: “We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf Gn 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” Those who receive ashes on their foreheads on Feb. 14 profess their belief that we are, indeed, dust, made from earth.

image_540_1But that dust, too, had a beginning. If Earth is our Mother, generations of exploding stars are our ancestors. Everything has come from elements resulting from their death and new life. Our Solar System and everything in it developed from a shimmering cloud of stardust elements like calcium, carbon, and hydrogen resulting from a supernova explosion. Thus everything on Earth is made of stardust elements.

On Ash Wednesday, Christians traditionally receive a cross of ashes on their foreheads to remind them that they are dust. The following ritual is meant to enrich this realization by reminding us that we are dust only because we are stardust!  (For a two-sided pdf copy of the following ritual, please contact terrishcj@aol.com.)

STARDUST RITUAL

Needed: one candle and a dish of dirt (or glitter, representing stardust). Decide who will read what.

Leader: To begin, let us pause to recall past times whenashes_6329cp we have received ashes on our foreheads and heard words like these: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Remember how that influenced your practices during Lent.  

Pause to Reflect.

Carry those thoughts and graces with you now, but place them in a larger context: the context of the entire universe and its amazing 13.8 billion-year history. After billions of years, thanks to the divine Mystery living and acting in our world and in us, stars formed and died in the process of bringing Earth to existence. We became part of this blessed creation. We are connected to all life; all life is interconnected and interdependent; we have a role in this sacred story!

Light candle. 

blastReader One: The massive star that was mother to our Sun met with fiery death, her form completely annihilated by the explosive force of the blast. And yet she exists in each of us, in the cells of our bodies that are composed of her dust. Consciously or not, we carry her within us as surely as we carry the DNA of our biological parents. (Radical Amazement, Judy Cannato)

Reader Two: Our planet Earth was once a dancing star, evolving over four and a half billion years ago from the many elements of [an exploding] supernova. I have loved knowing that we are “made of stardust” . . .  I like knowing that the composition of my body has the elements of a star that was once brilliantly aglow in the universe and is now dancing in me. There’s a magical sense of connection that comes from this knowledge . . . . (The Cosmic Dance, Joyce Rupp)

Reader Three: Dust particles are suspendedimages in the air at all times, unnoticed until sunlight bathes them in radiant streaming light. In this warmth, the specs sparkle. No one who cares about shiny furniture is unaware of what dust can accomplish, just by being. Nothing is insignificant in our universe!

Litany of gratitude:
•  for the Spirit present within the creative process of creation and within each of us, We are grateful.
•  for the generations of supernovas that exploded, resulting in stars with increasingly more of the heavy elements, eventually leading to the supernova that resulted in our solar system and galaxy, We are grateful.
images-5•  for Sister Dirt, because of whom we can enjoy food, flowers, plants, clean air, shade, and revelations of the divine, We are grateful.
•  for farmers who till the soil, especially our local farmers who do it organically using fair trade practices, We are grateful.
•  for those who lobby to prevent mono-cropping, toxic fertilizers, and the use of GMO’s that endanger the earth, We are grateful.
•  for the scientists, theologians, thinkers, writers, speakers and artists who have helped us realize our place in creation — [Pause to quietly remember one or two who have helped you. Name them if you wish], We are grateful.
•  for those present and throughout the world committed to creating a flourishing Earth, including Pope Francis, and for his encyclical Laudato Si’We are grateful.
•  Add as you wish.

Reflection:
Jesus, too, was stardust! Jesus, too, died to give new life, as each seed must do, as we will each do. How might we connect the creation  story with our Lent experiences this year? How might our Lent resolutions reflect our call to care for E/earth?

Pause to reflect, and then share.

Blessing of soil (or glitter):
May this soil (or glitter), which dates back billions of years images-2and which took over 4 billion years to form on Earth, keep us humble — humus is the Latin for soil. May it remind us of who we are and how vitally we interconnect with the rest of creation. May we deepen our awareness of our bonds with all creation.  Amen.

Individual blessings, using soil (or glitter):
Depending on the number of participants, either divide into pairs, each member blessing the other with soil from the center bowl, or form a circle and pass the bowl of soil, each blessing the person on his or her right.

100_1230Thank you, (name), for bringing your starlight into my life. I bless you and the star-stuff you invest in caring for all of creation. (Add anything you may wish to say at the beginning of our Lenten Journey.)

Extinguish candle. 

Socialize.

Happy New Year – but not for all

(If you are interested in Lent resources, please see note at the end.)

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. What could be worse than children’s having to anticipate a year of forced labor, forced sex, forced soldiering, lack of freedom, beatings — being totally enslaved and exploited? (Horrible for adults, too, of course.)

Some Relevant Stories

‘It is very easy to trap an indigenous woman compared to a mestizo. First of all, they do not speak Spanish and secondly, as they suffer from poverty due to loss of their land and house in [regional conflicts], they need some employment urgently. So looking at their situation, we promise the parents or husband good employment with shelter for their daughter and wife and provide them with a little money telling them that after their daughter or wife starts work they will send them some money”.  words of a trafficker   [Stop Trafficking 11/17]

After racking up an exorbitant debt [Cambodia] with a loan shark, Kieu’s mother sold her 12-year-old for sex. The desperate mom secured a “certificate of virginity” from a doctor for her daughter and sold the girl to a man who raped her in a hotel for two days. After the ordeal, Kieu was sold to brothels on three occasions and finally escaped to a safe house after learning that her mom planned to send her away for a six-month prostitution stint.  [CNN 2013]

Tessa [U.S.] was sexually abused by her dad for the first time when she was 7. Her drug-addicted mom was too consumed with her own issues to get involved. When Tessa was a sophomore in high school, she met Jared, whom she didn’t know was a pimp. He showered her with gifts and dates, and often reminded her that no one else could possibly love her because she was “damaged.” Jared soon convinced Tessa to sell her body for sex and would attack her and deprive her of food if she did not meet her quota. He kept all of the money she made and forced her to tattoo his name on her neck. Tessa eventually escaped. 

“During the time I was on the street, I went to hospitals, urgent care clinics, women’s health clinics, and private doctors. No one ever asked me anything anytime I ever went to a clinic.” Lauren, survivor

Some Relevant Facts

A $32-billion-a-year industry, human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise, according to the U.S. State Department. An estimated 27 million people are victims of the crime, which involves being forced to perform labor or commercial sex acts.

In the United States, an estimated 100,000 children are in the sex trade, according to ECPAT-USA, a nonprofit that fights the sexual exploitation of children.

Experts say that in Delhi alone, there are an estimated 100,000 girls as young as 12  who are trafficked as domestic workers.

“Whether because of financial desperation, drugs addiction, mental illness, or compulsion from pimps, women often have little choice but to sell their bodies for money. These are not people who can be said to be truly ‘choosing’ a risky line of business.” Supreme Court of Canada 

Some Relevant Dates 

Month of January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month.

January 1st is the World Day of Peace. Pope Francis’ theme is ‘Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in search of Peace.’ Migrating people are often targets for traffickers.

January 7th is the beginning of National Migration Week. 

January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the U.S.

February 8th is the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita (patron saint of those trafficked) and the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking 

Some Relevant Actions 

Keep handy the number 888 373 7888 – National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline – just in case you see anything suspicious. Trafficked persons can be found in the apparel industry, apple orchards, bars, beauty salons, brothels, citrus fields, construction, dairy farms, domestic help, fishing boats, food processing, food trucks, forced commercial sex, hotels, landscaping, lawn care, mines, motels, nail salons, nannies, pornographic production, restaurants, seasonal occupations, strip clubs, truck stops and…

Advocate for international agreements that offer refugee status to displaced people. 

Support agencies working with refugees and offering them legal protection. (Of many, I note one begun by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus: Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego (www.casacornelia.org). It offers pro bono legal services to victims of human and civil rights violations in the San Diego area. 

Purchase Fair Trade products, especially if they expand opportunities for displaced persons.

Pray and call attention in prayer and other ways to the connections between human trafficking and climate change, poverty, civil unrest, violence.

 

Note re. Lent resources: Three group resources — Laudao Si’ Reflection Resource, Creation Covenant (Species and Ecosystems), and Renewing the Face of the Earth (Air) — are available here: https://ecospiritualityresources.com/lent/