A Spirituality of Ecology

Put aside the Holy Scriptures for a while and read God's first revelation—nature itself. Such was the advice offered some years ago by a profound, Christian thinker. We stress "Christian" here because this person of faith intended no offense to God's Word, nor to us who hold that Word sacred. His point was that long before the writing of Genesis, humanity could already read God's self-revelation in the natural world.

A reading of nature also strikes us as a wonderful primer on the most elemental fact about our life in community: Humanity lives within a wondrously complex, interactive ecosystem. We humans receive from this system, impact on it, dwell inside of it, depend upon it; we are not in any sense of the word apart from the natural order, but bound to it for our very survival. This original community, Earth and the cosmos, brings us forth, embraces us, and surrounds us at every moment of our existence. It receives what remains when our spirits go to God.

That greatest of Christian saints, Francis of Assisi, recognized all of this nearly 800 years ago. Without doubt it is Francis' understanding of our community with nature that makes him such a universally beloved figure. He wrote with great intimacy and familiarity about our natural world: "Praised be You, my Lord, with all your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun....Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the Stars....Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the Air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather....Praised be You, My Lord, through Sister Water...through Brother Fire...through our Sister Mother Earth...."

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1998
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