Tag Archive | Lent

Time to Plan for Lent 2017

 lent_thumb3_thumbLent begins next month — Ash Wednesday is March 1st! Christians who care about Earth and/or whose Christ-awareness has been enriched by evolutionary biology, physics, and the new cosmology might long for Lent resources that include the suffering, death, and resurrection of Earth. Knowing that Jesus’ life is interconnected with everything else, they might want resources that foster actions that contribute to Earth’s sustainability and renewal.

Our reflections on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection need not be isolated from the life, death, and resurrection present in our our sacred and threatened Earth. This Lent is a good time to integrate concern for each precious threatened species with Christ’s suffering “in ten thousand places.” (Gerald Manley Hopkins)

Even butterflies, a symbol of new life, monarch-butterfly-threatenedare threatened with extinction — and the ramifications for other life forms are indeed ominous. “The whole creation [including humanity, so totally dependent upon it] has been groaning as in  the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8: 2) 

Though resources that integrate Christ’s passion and Earth’s passion are not plentiful, they do exist. This site — http://ecospiritualityresources.com — is one of them.

Reflection Booklets for Lent Groups

Two programs that correlate with 2017 Scripture readings are available: Laudato Si’ Reflection Resource and I Thirst: Water Reflections for Lent. Go to the Lent page of the EcoSpiritualityResources.

Ash Wednesday 2017 Stardust Ritual 

Judging by the numbers of people who will proudly wear ashes on their forehead, this ritual has not lost its power. Remembering that we came from dust and will return to dust is awesome. So is remembering that we really date to stars in an evolution that includes billions of years. Check Ash Wednesday 2017 Stardust Ritual  lent_other_picto expand our dust-remembrance by celebrating our coming from stardust and by reflecting on the marvel of dust and earth.

I hope these two resources will contribute to what Thomas Berry called the Great Work. 

Other resources

The Stations of the Cross for All Creation booklet, available from the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center (IPJC), integrates the sufferings of Jesus, our planet and its people, and envisions resurrection and new life. See http://www.ipjc.org/publications/stations.htm.


Please use “Comments” to add your suggestions for making good use of our time this Lent.

Stardust and Cosmic Water

images-2“Water, water everywhere,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote. He didn’t know the fraction of water’s ubiquitousness!

My usual water focus includes its importance as more than a resource, important as that is. Water, in its many forms, deserves our respect for other reasons, such as these:
– It is the origin of, and requirement for, life on Earth;
– It is a revelation of the Creator; it is sacred;
– It is an essential component of life (e.g., blood) and for enriching our lives;
– It helps us  “metaphor” divinity;
– its precarious future because of climate chaos, waste, and pollution.

Those using my “I Thirst” reflection this Lent will spend time reflecting on water and how it enables and enriches our lives. Understandably, “. . . nor any drop to drink” [sic] is a mighty fearsome possibility!

Origins of Earth’s Water 

In the Genesis version (which is respected as fertile myth but not historical account),images-3 water is the “watery abyss” that’s just there. God creates sky to separate the water under and above the sky/heaven. God gathers the water into one place so that land appears. “He named the pooled water Ocean.” (Gen. 1: 10) Water, a progeny of stardust,  predominates on our planet and is one source of our unity. I want to share some things I’ve learned (primarily from The Stardust Revolution by Jacob Berkowitz) that expand my understanding of water’s being “everywhere.”

Readers might know what follows, but no matter how much we already know about water, reviewing or learning more always seems to be a source of wonder. Maybe that’s because we’re learning about our ancestry! (Berkowitz: “We’re really made up of trillions of bags of water — our cells.”) Increased wonder was certainly true for me as I delved into facts discovered since the 1920’s about water — beyond Earth. I was and am also awed that humans have figured out ways to discover these facts. It earned Nobel Prizes for several scientists, and certainly earns them my respect and gratitude.

images-4For decades I thought water on Earth was the result of steam turning to rain and deluging the land. Relatively recently, I learned that water on Earth most probably came from comets and asteroids that regularly strike Earth. I admit I didn’t think much about how water got into them.

Scientific breakthroughs

Prior to the 1920’s, people thought the Universe was dry. In 1927, scientists at Bell Labs in New Jersey accidentally tuned in to the cosmos and heard radio waves. These waves are the principle behind radar, which eventually led to experiments in locating and identifying molecules that permeate the universe, the remains of supernovas and even of the Big Bang.

It turns out that the radio wavelengths of elements emit distinct signatures; each broadcasts a particular frequency. First scientists discovered vast, diffuse clouds of hydrogen, the element that had its origin in the first flaring forth. Researchers knew that hydrogen was abundant and the basic building block of the cosmos. That hydrogen atoms were “out there” was not too amazing.

Astronomers believed that molecules could not form or survive beyond Earth. Finding molecules in the cosmos — two or more atoms bonded together to form a chemical compound — would be a “quantum leap” in the non-scientific understanding of that word. Free-floating molecules rotate, vibrate, or both. This forms a unique fingerprint, making it possible for scientists to identify – and potentially find — each chemical. And in time, scientists did find them!

By 1937 “as simple a molecule as there is,” composed of a single carbon atom joined with a single atom of hydrogen — carbon hydride — had been discovered. Ammonia, too, had been discovered. Would it be possible to discover water molecules in the cosmos?

Discovery of Cosmic Water! 

Most people know that three atoms are required to form a water images-5molecule (H2O):
2 of hydrogen, the most common element from the Big Bang, plus
1 of oxygen, the most common element formed by stars.

The very next year, 1938, Charles Townes and his research group identified this three-partner dance in the cosmos — water! I either didn’t know or didn’t care at the time. Did you, if you were born by then?

And why might one care? Well, it’s good to live in the real world. Cosmic water is part of the story of who you and I are, the story of where we live. Genesis helped us think that water was not only always part of Earth, but was uniquely here. We thought Earth had cornered the water market! Turns out we needed a major thought-revision.

images-7Our beautiful, blue, wet planet is floating in a Universe awash in water in some form, mostly very cold gas or ice.
Ice is found around new stars and old ones;
it’s near black holes as well as in the heart of galaxies;
it forms around dust grains and it is frozen in ice balls.
Astronomers have detected water vapor whose light fingerprint had traveled from 12 billion years ago, and
the amount in the Universe is staggering. 

Stardust Connections

None of this water was “just here” in the cosmos; each single water molecule was formed from stardust elements!

How could we ever comprehend the creativity, the love, the source of this? Indeed, “The heavens are telling the glory of God!” (Ps. 19:1) images-8

Many Earthlings enjoy being in or near moving water: rivers, lakes, oceans, pools, even bath tubs. We instinctively feel a unity, a peace, a renewal.

Knowledge about cosmic water and our mutual beginnings from stardust can add to our feeling united to the entire Universe!

Ice Connections

Much of the North has had a lot of ice this winter — for better and for worse. We might now feel more united with cosmic ice when we enjoy ice skating and hockey, when we are awed by ice formations, when we plop ice cubes to cool our drinks.


Call to

It turns out that Earth is just one more place within the Cosmos where ice exists — and we have the awareness to appreciate it wherever it is!
Let’s deepen our appreciation of water everywhere on World Water Day March 22.
Let’s deepen it during Lent when we read stories about water and think about our sacraments.
Let’s deepen it whenever we look out at the heavens.
And, for sure, let’s deepen it by using Earth’s water reverently and sustainably.
Let’s not take it for granted!
Let’s stop individual and industrial pollution, waste, and contributions to climate change.

To adapt St. Francis’ words: Let us praise you, Lord, for Sister Water . . . .

Stardust Wednesday Ritual

We Are Stardust

Readers of this blog will be well aware that they are stardust. They might even

images-2remember when, where, and from whom they first learned that fact — or truly realized it. For many of us, the news was revolutionary. Talk about a paradigm shift!

As far as I can discover, few suspected this fact prior to 1929, when Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley remarked that “humans are made of the same stuff as the stars.” Three decades later, scientists showed that the atoms of which we are made are not only the same as those in stars; the atoms that comprise our “stuff” were actually created inside stars! No wonder gazing at stars can have such a profound effect on us! No wonder we sometimes really feel that we are one with all creation!

Also awesome is the realization that we become star stuff by way of Earth. When Christians are asked on Ash Wednesday to remember that they are dust, they can remember the Genesis story of how God took Earth’s clay/ humus to form the first humans. They can also remember that human evolution dates back not just to the very beginnings of our Earth, but all the way back to stars!

Ash Wednesday

images-1 Traditionally, on Ash Wednesday Christians flock to Church to begin Lent by receiving a sign of the cross on their foreheads. Originally called “Day of Ashes,” this custom had begun by the 8th century. Many Scripture references, primarily in the Hebrew Scripture, tell of repentant people putting on “ashes and sackcloth.” Ashes were originally sprinkled on the head rather than marked on the forehead. The ashes are a reminder of our sinfulness and mortality; the sign of the cross reminds us of Jesus’ forgiveness of sinners.

The ashes come from the burned palms used the year before on Palm Sunday. People are usually happy to get a good black smear to prove that they appreciate the symbolism of this sacramental — even if we didn’t exactly come from ashes.

Stardust Wednesday Ritual 

The following ritual is not intended as competition for the usual Ash Wednesday practice. It is suggested as supplemental to the traditional ashes ceremony, or as an alternative for anyone who would not otherwise participate in anything. A two-sided copy of just the ritual is available from terrishcj@aol.com.

Organizer(s) and/or those participating: Adapt the following ritual in any way that will make it more useful. (Send suggestions to terrishcj@aol.com.) Decide how much to use, music, and readings. You might want to be creative with sparklers or glitter. If wanted, plan refreshments.images-6

Begin together: May the Divine Power living and acting within us deepen our wonder and appreciation of the fact that we are made of stardust!

Music: Sing or say the lyrics for “Born of a Star” from We Are the Land We Sing, Carolyn McDade: http://www.catholicmusic.us/carolyn-mcdade-cds.aspx

Born of a Star

Return to the darkness, return
this longest night of wonder Return
Return to the dream, return
this holy night to ponder
Deep in the night, listen
Turn to the light
waken, waken
Deep in the night turn to the light Waken to Sun’s ancient summons ~

we who are born of a star who then are we?
we who are loved by a star who then love we?

We who are born of a star who then are we?

Reading(s): (Select one or more)

• from Radical Amazement, Judy Cannato: The massive star that was mother to our Sun met with fiery death, her form completely annihilated be 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 [and ancestors].

• from The Cosmic Dance, Joyce Rupp: Our planet Earth was once a dancing star, evolving over four and a half billion years ago from the many elements of a colliding supernova. I have loved knowing that we are “made of stardust” as Brian Swimme and other poetic cosmologists tell us. 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 . . . .

• from Once Upon a Universe, Pat Bergen, CSJ/Ministry of the Arts: When our Milky Way was 5 billion years old, a [later] generation star was coming to the end of her life. This grand old star collapsed in on herself and then exploded in a blast as fierce and brilliant as a million stars. It was our grandmother supernova! Her death gave birth to hundreds of new, more complex elements — carbon, iron, calcium, oxygen, magnesium . . .  “stardust” flung far out into space. Gravity again went to work and drew the dust back into a hot, dense center. And voila! Our glorious Sun star ignited! The rest of the stardust gathered into 8 fiery planets of molten rock and gases, dancing with their moons in orbits around the Sun. Thus were born [what became] our home planet Earth, our moon, our great generous Sun, . . . our whole solar system.

 Quiet Reflection

 Sharing: What connection(s) do you find between this story and the stories of Jesus that we ponder during Lent and Easter?

 Intentions: Reply is “We are grateful.”
– 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 heavier elements, eventually leading to the supernova that resulted in our solar system and galaxy,
– for Sister Dirt, because of whom we can enjoy food, flowers, plants clean air, shade, and revelations of the divine,
– for farmers who till the soil, especially our local farmers who do it organically using fair trade practices,
– 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],
– for those present and throughout the world committed to creating a flourishing Earth,

 Blessing: Join in 2’s or 3’s. Allow a few moments for people to think of a prayer for their partner(s). Then, in turn, each extends hands over (or on) the other’s head and says a blessing, wish, or thanksgiving. (E.g., John, may God’s loving Spirit deepen our awareness that all creation is one. Pat, thank you for bringing your starlight into my life. Al, I bless you and the star-stuff you invest in caring for creation.)