Skyline, Fall - 2004

By Diane Pendola

Earth Liturgy

Liturgy: 1. The rite of Eucharist. 2. The prescribed form for a public religious service; ritual.

[Latin. liturgia < Greek . leitourgia, public service<
leitorgos, public servant: leos, people + ergon, work.]
(The American Heritage Dictionary)

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Earth's People's Work

We are people of the Earth. We come from the Earth. We are sustained through the Earth. We are inspired by the Earth. Music must have risen in the human spirit out of bird-song, the sound of waves breaking upon the shore, the sigh of wind in the trees, the drumbeat of our own hearts. The soul of the natural world pours out of us in poetry. We plumb the depths of a Ponderosa Pine or a Monarch Butterfly and suddenly we are more ourselves, more present, more whole. Suddenly the world opens to us as we open to it, as we enter what seems other than us and discover our own authentic selves in the encounter.

Inside this clay jug there are canyons and pine mountains,
and the maker of canyons and pine mountains!
All seven oceans are inside, and hundreds of millions of stars.
The acid that tests gold is there, and the one who judges jewels.
And the music from the strings that no one touches,
and the source of all water.

If you want the truth, I will tell you the truth:
Friend, listen: the God whom I love is inside.

Friend , listen, the God whom I love is inside,” says fifteenth century Indian poet, Kabir. Inside this clay jug, inside this human body of bone and blood, is the genetic memory of stars and the originating energy of the universe. Inside are canyons and pine mountains and the maker of canyons and pine mountains. The whole glorious universe lives within us. As a human being I am able to reach out with my mind, with my spirit and enter into any created thing because somehow I carry it within my own being.
This awareness presses in on me. There is so much of my self, my larger Self, yet to know, yet to be entered. There could be more than 30 million species in the world today. Yet we have studied less than 100,000. And how many have any one of us truly entered?

To facilitate this entry into the interior depths of the natural world is the eco-contemplative work of Skyline. We want to call you into your own depths, into contemplative presence to yourself and your world. And we want to bring this into communal expression, celebration and ritual through what we call EARTH LITURGY, EARTH PEOPLE’S WORK.

What is the work of Earth’s people at this critical junction of the human-cosmic journey? Cultural historian and Geologian, Thomas Berry, suggests that we are at the end of a 67 million year venture called the Cenozoic era. We are standing at the threshold of a new age. Will we choose to commit ourselves to what he calls the “technozoic,” a future of increased exploitation of Earth as resource, all for the benefit of humans? Or will we commit ourselves to what he calls the “ecozoic,” a new mode of human-Earth relations, one where the well being of the entire Earth community is the primary concern? EARTH LITURGY brings to ritual expression the commitment to the dawning ecozoic age. The work of earth liturgy, earth people’s work, is quite simply, the work of communion.

Take and eat.
This is my body:
turned green in tongues of grass,
turned flesh in grazing herds,
turned love in human hearts.
Take and drink.
This is my blood:
rising in springs, flowing in rivers,
swelling the seas, salting your tears,
your veins full of me.
Take and eat
this sun and soil.
Take and drink
this wind and rain.
Re member me-
Light’s long journey out of Night,
Light’s long journey into Life.
Re member me-
Love’s dawn journey into Day.*

Communion. Many of us respond to the word in its Christian context, remembering bread and wine as the gifts Jesus gave to his friends as an ongoing symbol of his abiding presence with them. In Earth Liturgy the depth and breadth of that particular symbol expands to encompass the whole universe. Communion then transcends its historically and culturally conditioned context to become truly universal in its scope. It remains a meaningful symbol for the Christian community without being defined or exhausted by it. It embraces and celebrates the whole cosmic journey, arising out of Mystery to give birth to stars and supernovas, galaxies and planets, earth and single-celled life, plants and animals, human beings and reflective awareness. With the dawn of human consciousness comes the capacity of the myriad world to reflect on itself, to know itself, to love itself and to love every other as itself.

Communion is constitutive of reality itself. As Thomas Berry puts it, to be is to be related, for relationship is the essence of existence. Regarding this communion reality Raimon Panikkar declares, the mystical body does not mean just a small group of humans. It extends to the breadth of the entire universe in its proper status. In this context we could understand Jesus to have named this communion reality not for an exclusive few, not even for an exclusive humanity, but for the whole wide sacred web of life

Here at Skyline we celebrate Earth Liturgy. We celebrate the wind and the sun, the waters and the soil. We open ourselves to all our relations: the turtle dove in her soft call; the cry of the young hawk off on his own to fend for food for the first time; the prong-horned buck whose curiosity brings him close to our human circle of drumming and singing. We pass figs and nuts and juice squeezed from grapes whose vines have grown here for over one hundred years. We recognize, in the words of Thomas Berry, that nothing is itself without everything else. We exist, and not only exist, but thrive because of the great graciousness and gratuitousness at the heart of the universe. We seek forgiveness for the ways we rend the sacred web of life and pray for the light of awareness to illumine so much of the darkness of our human world. We ask to be full participants in bringing the dawn of love into the fullness of day. We acknowledge that the work of Earth’s people is to enter, with love, awareness and thanksgiving, into kinship in this Great Communion of Being.

The Dream of The Earth, by Thomas Berry, Sierra Club Books, 1988
The Universe Story,
by Brian Swimme & Thomas Berry, 1994, HarperCollins.
The Cosmotheandric Experience: Emerging Religious Consciousness: Raimundo Panikkar
“The Clay Jug” Kabir – version by Robert Bly in The News of the Universe, 1980, Sierra Club
*Communion poem by Diane Pendola

An unborn grizzly bear sleeps in her mother’s womb. Even there in the dark with her eyes closed, this bear is already related to the outside world. She will not have to develop a taste for blackberries or for Chinook salmon. When her tongue first mashes the juice of the blackberry its delight will be immediate. No prolonged period of learning will be needed for the difficult task of snaring a spawning salmon. In the very shape of her claws is the musculature, anatomy, and leap of the Chinook. The face of the bear, the size of her arm, the structure of her eyes, the thickness of her fur- these are dimensions of her temperate forest community. The bear herself is meaningless outside this enveloping web of relations.

-From “The Universe Story’ -By Brian Swimme & Thomas Berry

©Diane Pendola, Fall 2004. You are welcome to print or make a copy in electronic form for personal use or sharing with interested persons as long as the copyright notice is not removed or altered. Please do not print it in any other publication, or sell it, by itself or as part of another work, without express written permission of the author.

If you believe you receive a benefit from this, and the work we do, a donation would be gratefully accepted. You can make a tax deductible donation by sending a check to Skyline Harvest, Inc, PO Box 338, Camptonville, CA 95922 Thank you!

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