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Deignan Earth and Spirit Institute and Thomas Berry Forum Host Third Sunday of Advent Earth Mass at Iona College Chapel


Celebrant: Fr. John Anderson

Advent Reflection by Dr. Brian Brown

Saturday Evening, December 14, 2019

"As we gather in the dark of this Advent eve, encircled round the verdant sphere of this liturgical wreath, we recall that larger sphere of Earth’s vitality, compacted by the physics of mass and gravity, and shaped on every side by the attractive cohesion of its innumerable interdependencies which we celebrate and bless.

The curvature of our planetary sphere envelopes us on all sides with an atmosphere that protects, shields and gives us respiration with its principal atoms of nitrogen and oxygen. Into these layers of Earth’s air, and on this Advent eve, we pray that we may yet learn Earth’s fragile atmosphere, to cleanse and purify it, preserve, cherish and heal it.”

Altar is Prepared The Altar is prepared.

The curvature of our planetary sphere holds us in the solidity of its mineral structure, its layers of slate, basalt and granite; obsidian, quartz and shale; marble, pyrite and sandstone. Among these and all the strata of its terrestrial massiveness, and on this Advent eve, we pray that we not weaken nor disfigure Earth’s topography, nor plunder its nutritive elements through fracturing, extractive and ruinous wastage.

The curvature of our planetary sphere surrounds us with the mantle of its watery immensity among whose shallows and depths, tides and currents, bays and lagoons, as solitary swimmers or innumerable schools of coordinated fins, Earth nurtures our bodies and colors our imaginations with mollusks and anemones, crustaceans and flounder, herring and halibut, plankton and whale, salmon returning to spawn, slowly gliding sea turtles, and all who swim in global migratory circuits.

Congregation lines up to receive communion. Receiving the Eucharist.

From among these and their immeasurable kin throughout Earth’s fathomless oceanic expanse, and on this Advent eve, we pray that we be ever grateful for its prodigality, cognizant of its limitations, aware of its polar frailty, and measured in all our taking.

The curvature of our planetary sphere is shaded and fed by the rich canopies of ash, oak and beech; maple, juniper and spruce; walnut, poplar and willow, and the tens of thousands of tree species in the Amazon and Earth’s numerous temperate rainforests.

Standing amidst the silent germination of all manner of seeds, held firm by the rich tangle of intercommunicating and mutually fortifying roots and delicate webs of fungi, and on this Advent eve, we pray that we may marvel at the transubstantiation of photosynthesis, producing energy from solar light and oxygen from carbon dioxide, that so schooled we too may use the sun as fuel and sequester carbon in the trunks of the trees that we treasure.

The choir practices. Choir Rehearsal.

The curvature of our planetary sphere buzzes and whirls in the billionfold teeming of insect caregivers, allowing the sacrifice of their bodies even as they immeasurably enrich those of far greater bulk and mass. In the very act of pollination, bees; butterflies; pollen wasps; ants; hover flies; midges; male mosquitoes; moths; and tens of beetle species offer themselves to feed fish; amphibians; reptiles; birds; bats; hedgehogs; moles; and shrew.

Dwarfed among Earth’s legions of creeping, crawling, flying, nibbling, ever small, yet ever diligent and constant providers as these, and on this Advent eve, we pray that we come to better admire and emulate the labor of these beings in the propagation and diversification of fruits and vegetables; in the steady maintenance of life’s chain of nutrition; in the enrichment and fertility of soil and root formation; as the removers, decomposers and medicinal treatment for pathogens, even as they themselves become novel forms of human sustenance in a food insecure world.

Finally, the curvature of our planetary sphere coalesced in the emergence of mammalian intimacy. Be it expressed in the meticulous grooming of primates perched in jungle trees; the protective stance of the elephant herd around the vulnerable calf; the playful tussling and pawing of tiger cubs exploring together the shared joy of life’s enthusiastic spontaneities; the mutual grazing of zebra and wildebeest on the common patch of savannah grass; or the extension of empathy’s embrace turning strangers into guests, migrants into neighbors, among ever widening circles of humankind; in all such expressions, Earth’s capacity for bonded communion still unfolds and expands.

From within that unrealized potentiality, and on this Advent eve, we pray that as we understand the fullness from which we arose, the fullness in which we partake, we cherish and heal this planetary body with that same Love for which you were born.

May we, for but a moment, stand in the stillness of what we celebrate."

Photos: Br. Kevin Cawley

Brian Brown Reads His Reflections Brian Brown Reads His Reflections