The Grotto

The Grotto November 23, 2015

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Grotto Garden Chapel

One of my first stops on my way south was in Portland, OR to see the National Sanctuary of our Sorrowful Mother, also known as the Grotto. Located on approximately 62 acres, the site contains a beautiful statue of Mary holding the dead body of Jesus inside a rocky grotto. Above the grotto, is a perched meditation chapel, Servite monastery and forested grounds, dotted with shrines, rosaries and chapels. As I walked the grounds in the cool, dripping air, I felt both the presence of Catholic devotion to the saints and apparitions along the winding paths, and the presence of our own sorrowful mother the earth in a time of climate change, species extinction and pervasive toxins. Mary holds of the broken body of Christ, who is God made animal. She is mourning the loss of her son.

As I stopped at a small shrine to Our Lady of Czestochowa, a Polish apparition of Mary, I remember a verse from Mormon scripture that reads:

And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall Irest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face? (Moses 7:48).

In this remarkable verse, written by Joseph Smith in 1831, ‘Enoch’ hears the voice of the earth mourning the sin upon her face. It is a perfectly prophetic call from the earth herself to all of humanity to mend our ways.

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Our Lady of Czestochowa

As the earth tilts toward the Winter Solstice, the days get darker. It is a time for reflecting on darkness in the world and in our hearts. The world feels dark in the face of ISIS and climate disaster. But it is in darkness that light is born. The sun will begin his upward journey to the summer sky, and the Cosmic Christ will be reborn again, in a thousand incarnated bodies that make even this wounded earth hum with life. Standing before a beautiful icon of the Blessed Mother, who participates in the sacred feminine which has been attributed to the earth Mother from time immemorial, it was a beautiful coming together of my Mormon roots, my Catholic practice and my Pagan sensibility.

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