Celtic spirituality, with its emphasis on the goodness of creation, has lent itself to being hijacked and misinterpreted by those in search of a romantic perspective on creation, one that avoids the powers of evil at work in our world and in ourselves.’ J. Phillip Newell: LISTENING FOR THE HEARTBEAT OF GOD
When I left the Eagles and Ospreys to go about what they do in Imbolc I expected they would finish their nests, lay their eggs, and raise their young. A few days ago, the Denver Post, on the front page, reported that the Eagles had laid two eggs. One failed to hatch and they were caring for one Eaglet when the tree that had held their 30-year-old steel reinforced nest, spilt in half down the middle. The nest was on the ground and the dead eaglet was found a few feet away. Eagle watchers were devastated.
My book group is reading John Philip Newell’s book quoted above. All of us grew up with Augustinian Christianity. We are essentially bad. Our denominations spared nothing to assure us of our sinful natures. Our only chance of Salvation? The church. Collectively, our little group has been around for over 300 years and for the first time in our long lives someone has affirmed our essential goodness. My friends are thrilled. But underlying the joy of suddenly being assured we are basically good we are also facing questions about evil and sin. And of course, that one about why God lets bad things like this happen.
This year has left us asking when will life get back to normal? What will the new normal look like? Will we ever be normal again? Gradually I have come to the realization that life has been normal this year. Normal is simple: the sun rises in the morning and sets every evening. Spring follows winter and summer follows that. Some days it rains. We are born and we die. Each day has a predetermined length. Sunlight, water, fire, and air influence how life progresses.
Creation has seeded into it some things we see as negative, however. They taint the goodness. Sadness, loss, discord, disease, death. More difficult to define is evil and sin. Why did God have to go and mess up a good thing? Why do bad things happen? Brush it off. Fall back on old cliches: “God does not promise sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain.” “The only thing you can count on is death and taxes.” It does not help to shrug off those questions that deserve real answers.
There is spiritual work to be done and it begins with the first words of scripture. “And God saw that it was good. And God saw that it was good. And God saw that it was very good.” Whereupon God then turned the whole thing over to humanity. Why would God do that? Newell suggests that God turned Satan loose to discipline us. Scott Jenkins emphasizes that sin and evil must be respected!
I look around me. A tree is growing in a crack in a huge rock. It is a dumb place for a tree to grow but it seems to be working. The tree is changing the rock and the rock is shaping the tree. Lichens, a combination of a single cell algae and a fungus, growing on a rock or a dead branch, survive because each provides for and sustains the other. Waves are crashing on the shore. A breeze is whispering through the pines. Prayers are intoned by the ancient Celts. A newborn baby cries. A hurricane roars, the resulting flood is devastating. A virus gets out of control. In churches voices are singing hymns of praise. It all appears to be normal except when it does not. Meanwhile the Song of the Universe is playing. It is a hymn that has been sung for Millenia. It is a hymn I need to listen for, recognize and learn to hum.
The eaglet was to be cremated and buried at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in ground sacred to the Native Americans of the area and in accordance with their sacred customs.
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