Glow to Him Wood And Tree: An Ecological Reflection for Advent
Mary Rowell, CSJ on behalf of the Federation Ecology Committee
A powerful image of the presence of God in the natural world is found in the Carmina Gadelica, a beautiful compendium of Gaelic prayers and poems collected from around the Hebridean Islands between 1860-1909 by folklorist, Alexander Carmichael.
In the Christmas carol found in that text, “The Nativity” we read:
This night is the long night, Glowed to Him wood and tree, Glowed to Him mount and sea, Glowed to Him land and plain, When that His foot was come to Earth.
The carol speaks of the light of Christ’s birth penetrating, being received by and reflected in all of God’s creation. Soon, we will again light the candles of Advent as we prepare our hearts to receive the light of Christ at Christmas.
This year, we wait for the “long night” of Christmas in a seemingly “long night” in our world. Today, our experience is of a “night of darkness”; a night filled with violent conflicts worldwide and the threat of nuclear annihilation, of the sufferings of people fleeing persecution, torture and starvation, a night of ecological degradation,
of chaotic weather patterns and climate change. It is a night in which the “cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor” is heard calling out to us, with urgency, as one cry! We face a night where the possibility of the light being extinguished forever seems real in ways not previously experienced in our world.
And yet … as Christians familiar with mystical references to “the dark night” we find in our reality of faith the light of Christ at the heart of all things. In this is hope. So as we light our candles this Advent we are reminded that with Christ we are called to be “God’s light in our world.” Advent invites us once again to reflect upon the confluence of the realities of our time and the hope of Christian commitment and that of our religious profession. The silent, enveloping waiting in the long night calls us ever to the primacy of prayer in and for the world. It invites us to prepare in contemplative movement the prayer-filled actions that will make a difference – in the “already but not yet” birthing of Christ in our world. Advent offers us a sacred pause, to again search our hearts for practical responses that will contribute to the integrity of God’s creation, healing relation- ships in a spirit of reconciliation and that will respond with true commitment to those who are poor and marginalized. In the long night “when all creation groans” (Romans, 8:22) we again hear a call to new beginnings in the face of the challenges of our times – that as Christmas dawns our hearts, our lives, all of creation will indeed “glow where His foot was” and will in us once again, “come to Earth.”