Saturday, July 30, 2016

Marian path to Christian Environmentalism

A recent post detailed some Trinitarian foundations for Christian environmentalism.  The very creedal profession of the Trinity--not just that we believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--but how we state those beliefs, all of which illuminate the Trinity's creative relationships suggests a renewed appreciation for the world itself but importantly how we care for it, too.

Confession time:  that post came about through reflecting on the Creed as it kickstarts the Rosary, usually as I drove to work through the geological oddity of eastern upstate New York, Albany's Pine Bush.  Google images montage here;  lots of scrubby pines and sandy soil, much of which now lies underneath sub/urban development and, problematically, the area's largest landfill.  Still, much natural beauty lies within, as this cathedral-like trail attests.

Anyway, the point: the Trinitarian foundations for viewing the environment come to us, in this case, through the Rosary, that most Marian and Roman Catholic of prayers.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God,
pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

I suppose the easy route would be to draw an analogy between the Blessed Mother's fertility celebrated by the prayer and the fertility of the natural world itself.  While superficially helpful, such a connection might obscure deeper, more authentic and vital, relationships.  After all, the Catechism (#773) asserts that the Church's Marian charism--its interior holiness--precedes the Petrine, the external, authoritarian charism.  Keep that in mind whenever you hear complaints about Vatican intrusiveness or the Church's unwillingness to change or the old canard "I'm spiritual but not religious."  Because of Mary, the Church is spiritual before it is "religious," and so, too, is the natural world.

It is important to contrast the very wildness of nature--forest, beach, prairie, swamp, mountain, ocean, river, lake, or stream--with the ways in which man tries to curtail, co-opt, contain, or control nature.  This is perhaps best seen in immaculately manicured lawns.  To reach the scene depicted above, you must drive past more than a few very green, and very controlled, suburban lawns.  Not a bug or weed to be seen, just uniform green grass.

One of my Vanderbilt philosophy professors once described Nietzsche's will-to-power as the wild, unkempt, unfettered plant growth contrasted to an English garden or a Japanese bonsai tree.  The uncontrolled versus the controlled.  I heard that and immediately thought: kudzu.  Now, though, I think instead:

Humanae Vitae was right all along.

Yep, look at a yard, understand the contraceptive mentality.

The suburbanized lawn looks like all the others and projects a fantastic image, but requires an immense amounts of time, money, and, perhaps most importantly, unnatural, chemical "correctives." So while you see "grass" it's not really natural but rather a chemical recreation thereof.  In other words, the lawn-care version of birth control pills.  Real, natural grass isn't manicured;  it grows in directions unforeseen.  Life, too, "finds a way" around the neat, compartmentalizing chemical hurdles we throw in its path.

Thanks to my good friend from upstate New York and the Catholic blogosphere, Michael Seagriff, there's this May 2016 reflection by John Manos on Mary Immaculate and the apostolate of St. Maximilian Kolbe.  Manos on Mary's title "Mediatrix of all Graces":

...if you are in this world and you have grace, you got it from Mary. And I will add:  and nowhere else. Period.
Jesus meant this when he gave us Mary from the Cross as our Mother. She is not God. Nor, as the Arians would have supposed, did she gain divinity by her own means. She is the means of grace, which comes from God, but it only comes to us through Mary. ...

Unpacking that a bit, and this pulls the rug out from underneath the Protestant anti-Marian criticisms ("What this...'mediatrix?"), without Mary Christianity does not exist.  No Incarnation, No Crucifixion, No Resurrection.  God so loved the world and so arranged our salvation in Christ that it all comes naturally through birth by a woman.  Sometimes it needs to be spelled out that clearly.  Mary was and is not a mere channel through which and whom God haphazardly entered the world.  No, God chose her and through her God the Son receives His humanity.

Here's the environmental link:  in like fashion the natural world itself is the realm in which God demonstrates His Love, and achieves salvation, for us.  Not in some gnostic, ethereal sphere but this world--the one God created. So, like Mary, this world has an unavoidable centrality to our earthly and spiritual lives.   
More Manos:
One more thing that St. Louis deMontfort and St. Maximillian would tell us because this distinction is so important:  we do not go to Mary and then to God. Rather, we go with Mary to God. Mary accompanies us to God. She brings us to Him. This distinction is a stumbling block so many have over Marian devotion because they think devotion to Mary is worship at odds with God. It cannot be when she brings us, with her, to God.
If you want to be holy, then you need grace, and you can only get that in this world from Mary.

(As an aside, much of what Manos describes may be found in St. Louis de Montfort's writings on Marian consecration and, more recently, in Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP's Mother of the Saviour.)

Father Edward Looney, recently ordained to the priesthood for the Green Bay (WI) diocese, has stated:

Mary can help us to understand the Trinity through her relationship with the Trinity. She is the daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, and spouse of the Holy Spirit. In her we see how she was in a relationship with our Triune God, and how we should be, too. We are beloved children of the Father. We have communion with Jesus every time we receive Holy Communion. Just as Mary dialogued with Jesus each day of her life with Him, we too do that through prayer. And all of us are temples of the Holy Spirit. We have received the Holy Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation, and thus enjoy a closeness to the Spirit.

Finally, Washington DC's Cardinal Wuerl reminds us:

These celebrations, like all Marian feasts, are really celebrations of Jesus Christ, for she has no privilege that she has not received from God. In these days, we learn how to stay close to him in prayer and through the practice of charity, such as caring for a relative in a time of need, with confidence that our prayers will be answered.
To rejoice in Mary is to celebrate God’s greatest creation – the vessel he fashioned to be his own mother, the woman who would bear him into the world. In the life of the “handmaid of the Lord,” we learn what it means to say “yes” to life in the Lord and to discover in him the meaning of life.

Exactly.  And, to the extent I'd add anything to Cardinal Wuerl's words, I'd suggest that the environment thus exhibits this Marian character.  In the natural world, in the various environments present on the planet, we find the places where we put that Marian "yes" into action.  

So perhaps, as we invoke Mary's intercession, regarding the environment we also should become more like St. Joseph, working quietly where we find ourselves, following the Lord's startling requests.  And like St. Joseph, we guide, protect, and care for the Marian presence in our own lives.  This takes place in the Church--the actual physical space as well as the human community, of course, but we may and should also find it in the environment.  So, yes, when you go to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon to marvel at the wonders, you can see both the natural science at work as well as this Marian dimension that precedes and sustains it.  Through the very specific humanity of Mary the God who created and creates came into the world, and thus through this same world we can see glimpses of Mary's mediation.

In the towering firs of Rainier National Park--a very specific place--God gives us insights into His majesty.

Finally, some green Catholic folks on Twitter worth following for more on all this:
St. Kateri Shrine
St. Kateri Tekakwitha Center
National Catholic Rural Life Conference

There are others, but through these you'll find links to them.

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