The indigenous mind sees the divine in many manifestations. Each unique expression—be it a rock, water, or tree—is beautiful in God’s sight.
Some years ago, I participated in a program whose focus was justice and the cosmos. There, I discovered another name for justice; that name is beauty. When I later reflected on the universe and the Earth, I realized that they flow out of the divine imagination and bathe us all in a shimmering cloak of beauty.
Beauty also flows into our lives through the song of a robin, the gurgle of a brook, and the gift of music. We receive beauty, for instance, through the melodious response of Paul Winters, who with his alto clarinet echoes the sounds of the forest. We likewise receive it through the songs of the wolf, the elephant. and the eagle.
Beauty reveals itself to us when we ponder deeply as the mystery of mathematics flows into our soul through the amazing harmony of numbers, symbols, and sound.
Beauty is available to us in each sacred moment when we gather as friends of God and prophets to create together the conditions in which beauty can shine forth.
Today it suddenly came to me that we have received the gift of beauty from our ancestors, the First Nation’s people, and all God’s creatures who preceded us on planet Earth. As they walked, flew, swam, built homes, cared for their young, each brought his or her gift of beauty to this land.
During these days at Springbank, we become more and more aware that we also are living on this land to bring forth beauty into the world.
Philosopher and poet John O’Donohue writes, “The beautiful stirs passion and urgency in us…. It unites us again with the neglected and forgotten grandeur of life.” As I contemplate his words, I arrive at the awareness that each expression is itself beautiful in its own way.
I am thrilled to announce once again to the world that “Black is beautiful.” And I also wish to add, “so are Red, Brown, Yellow, and White.”
As we gain an enhanced appreciation of beauty, it becomes clear that it is revealed to us in very different ways. When the celebrant at Bernstein’s Mass dropped the crystal chalice on the terrazzo floor, he gazed at the glistening crystals and at all who gathered in the cathedral that amazing day, and proclaimed, “I never thought that brokenness could be so beautiful.”
Beauty is indeed a mystery and a great gift; we can say with confidence that beauty happens when we discover that we are truly ourselves and allow our gifts to shine through. The same is true of the oak tree, the vegetables in Sr. Barbara’s garden, the luscious food prepared at Sr. Mary Dean’s table, the Taiji we practice in the morning with Sr. Trina, the healing oils of Sr. Theresa as they activate the vibrational energy, and the healing presence of Marcia on the land as she gives her gift to beautify this plantation place.
In and through the memories of each indigenous mind we reactivate the ancestral grace of those who have gone on before, and today activate our memories of a world of beauty, wonder, and belonging.
This morning as I gazed out the eastern window to welcome the morning sun, I experienced a felt sense of the divine as beauty adorning the forest and the fields below. I felt their beauty flow gently upon my heart and soul.
As I contemplate that moment, I ask, “Is not our gift to the world our capacity to create the conditions for beauty to shine forth?”
When at Springbank we create a piece of pottery, share the Elm Dance ritual, journey along the Cosmic Walk, or witness the presence and practice of the Medicine Wheel, we are immersed in the elements of earth, air, fire, and water. We become creators of beauty in the world and the bioregion and place where we are meant to be.
The following ritual can be practiced in a group or alone.
1. In a circle, take a step back and audibly announce the names of your mother and father.
2. Continue to take another step back and announce in turn your maternal grandparents and fraternal grandparents (by name if you know that). Continue to step backward into your great grandparents and others in your ancestral lineage (again, you don’t need to know their names to do this).
3. With each step, ponder what you know or imagine was your ancestors’ relationship to the land where they lived and to both the challenges and gifts of their era.
4. When you have moved backward as far as your memory can recall, begin to take steps forward to experience the memory of your ancestors and the gifts you inherited from them. Recall the beauty of their lives and give thanks to them for bringing beauty to the planet and to your life.
5. Celebrate, too, the beauty that is your gift to the planet and that you bring with you today and every day. That gift of beauty awaits those as yet unborn of every species.