For centuries, dualisms between spirit and matter, soul and body have massively influenced and governed human activity both in its quest for truth and progress. The body/matter is profane, bad and evil and therefore, secondary to the soul/spirit. The world/earth having classified as thing and devious as the body is so bad that if one wishes to seek perfection and holiness one must flee from it, forget all about it. God is totally disconnected from the world and goes against it. This disconnection leads to accelerating decreation and continuous destruction and killing both of the human and non-human creation. In the human world, what God beautifully created is and being desecrated and becomes the worst helpless enemy that must be controlled, dominated, conquered and raped. That she is! Now, she walks toward abominable death, toward a horrifying Big Bang, if Homo sapiens will remain asleep.1
This is very real in the time of St. Dominic (1170-1221). With a heart full of compassion, great zeal for people and desires for human flourishing,2 and seeing the reality with his own eyes, he was greatly disturbed by the social and religious situation of the world. The call of the Spirit to “give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79) was so hard to resist. And off he went to all nations causing a breakthrough in the life of the Church. With his new band of preachers he ‘flight to the world’ not to fight the enemies but to befriend and live with them. He radically loved the poor and lived poor believing and fostering communion. The world ceased to be a worst enemy to get rid of and condemn but a place containing treasures [of million lives] hidden and veiled in the dark. There, Dominic held the shining light so that many shall see what is beautiful, rejoice in it, appreciate it and constantly gaze to the One who is beauty and life in itself – God.
Dominic, aware of himself and seeing his own humanity and life as holy and sanctified, loved the people, lived in the world, and unceasingly praised God in thanksgiving and joy. By studying [the scripture], learning, listening and praying, he contemplated and preached to others the fruits of his contemplation.3 His friars do the same.
Contemplation is not done in the confines of the monastery, not outside or away from the world but in and through the world we have. Aware of and appreciating the beauty and mystery one gazes lovingly at the world that God has loved and beautifully created. However, contemplation is not the end itself but a way so that one may have something to preach. Its fruits must be shared. “For even as it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so it is better to give to others the fruits of one’s contemplation than merely to contemplate.”4 What has been contemplated through studies, prayer and meditation in the sight of God must be shared and proclaimed through itinerant preaching. First, in order that the truth of God – God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s presence operative in the world since the beginning is manifest, and second, so that people may also lovingly gaze at the world, be reconnected, reconciled to it and its creator, and bless, praise and resound God’s goodness in their human activity, life and environment. Radcliffe says: “As preachers, flesh and blood, we can give body to that compassionate look of God.”5
Dominic’s message is clear. The world’s genesis and nature is good and beauty [despite its disheartening situations caused by ‘us’] and one need and must not flee from it to live a holy and good life. We only need to look at and be aware of it and we shall discover and find delight in its beauty as God did in the beginning (Gen 1:13). C. Fintan speaks:
Creation is the stepping-stone of God…a product of God’s creative love…a seat and centre of God’s loving action…an epiphany, a showing forth and making known of God’s presence, life and goodness…speaks of God’s action…meaningful…part of the reality which is God.6
One cannot attain fullness and meaning in isolation from and at the expense of the other and the world. “We live and act in and through creation, we are fulfilled in it and find God in it.”7 We are interconnected beings and relationship to God, others and the rest of creation is our nature grounded in God’s very nature of love and relationship. “…all that God creates is good; there is no distinction between material and spiritual aspects of creation.”8 Creation is not a separate entity and is good of its nature.
Moreover, the one [a preacher] who contemplates and preaches God’s goodness to the world not only discover and delights in the truth of God, creation and oneself but also “reinforces one’s own commitment to Christ” and discover how to love more and well as Jesus did for contemplation “begins and ends in love; is more experiential and intuitive…”9 Jesus sees beauty in the ugliness and sinfulness and allows it to shine through his words and deeds in history.
He shared and lived the evolution of our species
And stepped up to his neck into the River
and never doubted this was what he came for.
He saw that it was good.
Christ was engaged, was risen in those people.10
He consistently reveals the God who always wishes to bring “all creation together in himself,” give it healing and wholeness, restore, renew and make it flourish and bears witness to the truth that one can find a true home, friendship and communion in a world deeply loved by God and be gently, lovingly transformed by it.
Contemplation and preaching/prophecy: this is the life of the Dominican in the world and so do all of us who wish to destroy and transform every form of dualism, be converted to and eventually ‘fall in love’ with the earth. Like Dominic, contemplation must be our lens so that our eyes could see God’s presence in nature and the world, and recognize its sacredness and intrinsic tie to the whole of humanity. When this happens, we can then make our stand. In solidarity with the suffering and oppressed, with full responsibility, and driven by compassion, we shall speak and act with conviction, light and passion, call for repentance, renewal and conversion, and move onwards to healing and communion and the vision of “A flourishing humanity on a thriving earth.”11
Following the footsteps of Jesus and St. Dominic, in collaboration with feminist, creation and liberation spiritualities, looking in and through the eyes of God, we must lovingly look at everything, and we shall find it very, very good. If we do so, we will rediscover not only the earth and its innate goodness and beauty but also ourselves. We are the earth (universe); the earth (universe) is in us.
1 See E. Johnson, Women, Earth and Creator Spirit (New York: Paulist press, 1993), pp. 10-22; F. Creaver, The Stepping-stone of God: creation (Ireland: St Pauls, 1995), pp. 51-63.
2 Once a student, St. Dominic sold all his books and was joyful in saying “I do not wish to study these dead skins while people are dying of hunger.”
3 “To contemplate and to give others the fruits of contemplation” (Contemplare et Contemplata aliis tradere) is the Dominican motto. See also J. Aumann, The Contemplative Dimension of Dominican Spirituality, http.//www.op.org/domcentral/aumann/contpdim.htm; M. Altarejos, Handout: Dominic de Guzman and the Spirituality of Liberation (November 2001), p. 4.
4 J. Aumann, p. 2.
5 M. Altarejos, p. 4.
6 F. Creaver, pp. 55-8; see also J. Weaver, Earthshaping Earthkeeping (Great Britain: Lynx, 1999), pp. 124, 146-8; and E. Johnson, pp. 41-60. Italics modification.
7 F. Creaver, p. 55.
8 J. Weaver, p. 124; E. Johnson Speaks of ‘kinship model, mutual or intrinsic interrelatedness, continuity, communion, and quoted from B. Swimme, cosmic genetical relatedness,’ Chapter 4.
9 M. Altarejos, p. 3; J. Aumann, p. 2.
10 F. Creaver, p. 84. Italics addition.
11 E. Johnson, pp. 61-68.
Altarejos, M. Handout: Dominic de Guzman and the Spirituality of Liberation. IFRS: November 2001.
Aumann, J. The Contemplative Dimension of Dominican Spirituality. http.//www.op.org/domcentral/aumann/contpdim.htm.
Creaver, F. The Stepping-stone of God: creation. Ireland: St Pauls, 1995.
Johnson, E. Women, Earth and Creator Spirit. New York: Paulist press, 1993.
Weaver, J. Earthshaping Earthkeeping. Great Britain: Lynx, 1999.