Cosmologist Brian Swimme’s view of the place of humans in the cosmos strikes for me an Advent note. An interviewer asked Swimme about his vocation as a writer and teacher. “I am just so profoundly happy,” Swimme responded, “serving out the role of the human as the realm in which… the Earth reflects upon and tastes its beauty.”
Advent is a liturgical season of anticipating and birthing. Advent is also a time for reflecting on what it means that God became human and dwelt upon the earth. During Advent we anticipate the many ways in which God arrives in our midst. We also celebrate how God continues to dwell upon the earth in us and in the generous gifts of creation.
I wrote in a September post about the importance of “place” in religious leadership and theological education and return now to that post’s quote from Poet Maxine Kumin: “In a poem, one can use the sense of place as an anchor for larger concerns, as a link between narrow details and global realities. Location is where we start from.” Advent sings, prays, and proclaims the power and possibility of “place” in Christian understanding. I am still pondering now as I did at the outset of the semester: What if place—both its incarnational and resurrection dimensions—is where theological education, religious leadership and perhaps even faith begin and to where they return? “Place” certainly seems to be where the liturgical year begins.
As this fall semester 2013 draws to a close and we close the books on another academic season, God’s liturgical incarnation rhythms have only just begun. The question with which I began the semester lingers for me and with it Swimme’s idea that the Universe—God’s good earth—somehow comes to taste itself, perhaps even to savor itself, through humans. This Advent and Christmas, as we rest between semesters, may we ponder anew the meaning of humanity’s place, and may we discover new ways to incarnate in our own lives and vocations God’s savoring and saving work.
Blessings for the week ahead,
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Notes: The Brian Swimme quote come from an interview in Lauren de Boer, “Science as Wisdom: The New Story as a Way Forward,” EarthLight Magazine 26 (Summer 1997): 10-22. See the online journal Windfall: A Journal of Poetry of Place for the Kumin quote as well as for readings on poetry and “sense of place” (hevanet.com).
Photo from http://sustainabletraditions.com/.