Of the Equinox and the Spirituality of the Earth

Twice this week, on two separate occasions coming from two different individuals, I have been invited to participate in Spring Equinox rituals that will take place this weekend.

Ten years ago that would have been nothing remarkable, as I was a regular participant in Wiccan and Neopagan groups like the House of Oak Spring or the Grove of the Unicorn or the now-defunct local grove of Ár nDraíocht Féin. But since I wandered “out of the woods and into the Catholic Church” in 2005, understandably my number of invitations to Wiccan Circles and Pagan Rituals have been in short supply. So I find it interesting that I would get not one, but two, offers to honor the turning of the wheel this time around.

And the real irony: both invitations come from Christian friends. Not “Christian” in the sense of “that was how I was raised but I don’t really believe it,” but Christian in the “going to church every Sunday and trying to follow Jesus the best I can” sense.

So… why are the Christians who love the turning of the seasons suddenly coming out of the woodwork? I’m not really sure. But it does seem auspicious, in that just this week I’ve begun reading Christine Valter Paintner’s newly-released book Water, Wind, Earth, and Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying With the Elements from Sorin Books, an imprint of Ave Maria Press (about as mainstream a Catholic publisher as you can get) I’ve just begun the book so I can’t say too much right now, but I will post a review once I’ve finished it. What I can say is that it looks quite good: a poetic and prayerful approach to spirituality grounded in the blessings of the natural world, suitable for Christians to incorporate in our overall spiritual practice. Valter Paintner is a Benedictine oblate whose website is called Abbey of the Arts: Transformative Living through Contemplative & Expressive Arts.

Meanwhile, both of the Atlanta-area Christians who requested my presence at Equinox rituals this weekend are contemplatives as well. Am I noticing a groundswell of emerging interest in the convergence between contemplative Christianity and a healthy, positive honoring of the good Earth that has been given to us?

I sure hope so.

Alas, I had to decline both opportunities to participate in the Equinox rituals for the most prosaic of reasons: I work this weekend. But I’m pleased that I was honored with the invitations. To all of you who read this, whether you are Neopagans — or Christians with a deep and abiding interest in honoring the blessings of the Earth — I wish you a joyous day in celebration of the coming of Spring.

Concerning Emergence, Contemplation, and the Faith of the Future
Five Things Christian Contemplatives can learn from Buddhists
In Memoriam: Kenneth Leech
Interfaith Dialogue, Interspirituality, and Holy Daring
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • http://brazenbird.wordpress.com brazenbird

    Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this. I started my morning ritual about 8-10 weeks ago and I had to just give myself permission to include what draws me, what deeply resonates with me and so I have a small bowl of water, a small bowl of “air,” a beeswax candle for fire, and another small bowl of ashes (from the charcoal tabs that burn my copal incense). And I was given beautiful prayer beads that have four distinct sections, each representing Earth, Wind, Fire and Air. I open my ritual by praying about and in thanksgiving for the four elements and it’s a very grounding exercise. Ever since I started doing that I have been more successful in my meditation.

    Your blog has come to my attention at the perfect time. I say that every time I read a new post. Thank you.

  • http://jodiq.wordpress.com jodiq

    Ahh…an answer to my question posted on St Patrick…when did you convert. Maybe I need to dig into other posts to hear why you converted…

    Yay for movement toward honoring nature while worshiping the Creator…

  • catvet94

    I believe it is wonderful that Christians, esp. Catholics will start to look towards mother earth and the elements as part of their religion. However, it echoes what Christians have always done – take Pagan practices and places and make them their own, Christianize them, as they say. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to be mean or anything. And as I see it, whatever is good for mother earth is good for everyone.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

      You’re right of course. And I know plenty of Pagans who use Christian Christmas carols, with “Paganized” lyrics. Moral of the story: all religions “borrow” from other religions. It just seems more egregious when Christians do it, given their degree of cultural and social privilege, historically won at the expense of other faiths.

  • catvet94

    True – I have seen some of those Paganized lyrics and I really don’t care for them for that very reason. They were not ours to begin with and they are beautiful in their original form. And you can’t complain about something if you do it too. :> Yes, everyone borrows from everyone and I think that makes it more eclectic and just shows that if you remove all the dogma, our gods are one and the same.
    P.S. I have been following your journey you for a very long time, just never stuck my head up to say hi. Take care.

  • http://stroppyrabbit.blogspot.com Yewtree

    I find this very encouraging. Happy Equinox to all.