Each month the Society of the Holy Child (SHCJ), of which I am a member, posts a short (under 4 minutes) video meditation. This month’s connects the journey of the scholars to Bethlehem (celebrated in Western Christianity on January 6th) to the pilgrimage of refugees seeking shelter and to our own journeys this year. No matter how we interpret the original story and its participants, they give us a model for making our own pilgrimage this year, our own contribution within and to the Universe Story:
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.
“. . . hallowed be Thy name . . . .”
Halloween, celebrated October 31st, was originally an “evening-before” celebration of those considered “hallowed” — holy, sacred, blessed, revered — and who are remembered November 1st on All Saints Day. The Catholic Church and several Protestant denominations in North America dedicate the entire month of November to remembrance of the dead. Originally, people limited their thoughts in November to deceased humans, but as our knowledge of the interconnections among all creation has grown, we realize that humans cannot be separated from the rest of creation.
Just as trees in the Northern Hemisphere lose their leaves in order to catch maximum sunlight during the cold days of winter, so all of nature calls us to remember that what seems like death is a promise of, and requirement for, new life. In the Gospels, Jesus reminded us that seeds must die in order to bear fruit. The image applies to humans and to everything else in creation. It was a natural process in the evolution of nature.
But that natural process is being violated by human-caused global warming (and other problems). Changes are coming too quickly for nature to respond to the threats. Death is now bringing extinction rather than new life.
What about birds?
For years scientists have been telling us that the ranges of bears, butterflies, and many other species are shifting north and toward the poles; that bird migrations are changing time and course; and that pollinators are trying to adjust to new flowering schedules. These alarming observations are only the beginning.
The October 2014 Climate Change Report from Audubon warns that shrinking and shifting ranges could imperil nearly half of U.S. birds within this century. (Many of the children born this year will live that long.) 314 North American bird species are threatened with extinction. This includes the possible extinction by 2080 of the state birds of ten states and also of the American eagle. (For an overview of the report, see climate.audubon.org/article/audubon-report-glance.)
Video: Unless the Seed Dies
In preparation for November and our remembrance of deceased loved ones, and more recently also of extinct species and ruined ecosystems, I am posting a video I made years ago for the Sister of the Holy Child Jesus’s monthly meditation series. I hope you will deepen your belief, as you watch, that all creation is hallowed; that divinity lives and acts in it all, without exception; that we who are the consciousness of the universe have responsibilities to it all.
(Because of that setting, it includes references to Cornelia Connelly, the woman who began the SHCJ. For a brief account of the life of this fascinating woman, see http://www.mayfieldsenior.org/about/Cornelia-Connelly.)
For the video Unless the Seed Dies, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf-z2Q82W2E
How do you plan to honor the hallowed dead and the hallowed extinct species this November?