The Gift of the Good Land.
This title is borrowed from a collection of essays by the poet-farmer Wendell Berry. Recently I've been struck by the way that this Baptist farmer and one Pontiff in Rome--Pope Francis in Laudato Si--have so much in common in their writings. Both have written beautifully and prophetically of the way that there is a growing awareness that our interior poverty is becoming increasingly realized in the devastation of our common home. As Christians we reject the idea that we are masters of creation. Rather, God has given us the land, with its many bounties, as a wonderful gift. The care of this great gift is one of the fundamental meanings and purposes of human life. To reject this, or fail at it in destructive stupidity, is to threaten our very being.
Ours is the work of stewardship, gratitude, and humility. Our intelligence helps us understand the ecology whereby the human community lives in peace and mutual abundance with the other creatures of the Earth and yet our great power gives us the ability for great destruction, if disordered.
This series will explore the agrarian witness and thought of various Christian thinkers and actors over the span of the tradition. We will learn from their witness and writings and over the course of our conversation we will explore together the theology of the land, the subsequent ecological principles that for Christians emerge as a good way of life, and finally we will work on the real and complex challenges we currently face.
Oh...and we will also taste and see the goodness of God in the Gift of the Good Land by
Work Song: Part 2
If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow growing trees
on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it…
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
here, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides…
The river will run
clear, as we will never know it…
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
the old forest, an old forest will stand,
its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields…
native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisaical dream.
Its hardship is its reality.
Words from the Tradition...
...the internal deserts...
"“The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast”.For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion"
— Laudato Si
"The body is damaged by the bewilderment of the spirit, and it conducts the influence of that bewilderment into the earth, the earth conducts it into the community, and so on."
...they memorialize their lost unity...
"Healing, on the other hand, complicates the system by opening and restoring connections. What the specialization of our age suggests, in one example after another, is not only that fragmentation is a disease, but that the diseases of the disconnected parts are similar or analogous to one another. Thus they memorialize their lost unity, their relation persisting in their disconnection. Any severance produces two wounds that are, among other things, the record of how the severed parts once fitted together."
— Wendell Berry
...regard for the soil...
2. "The answer lies in a return to a society where agriculture is practised by most of the people.
3. It is in fact impossible for any culture to be sound and healthy without a proper regard for the soil, no matter how many urban dwellers think that their food comes from groceries and delicatessens or their milk from tin cans.
4. This ignorance does not release them from a final dependence upon the farm."
— Peter Maurin
The world is charged with the grandeur of God... -Gerard Manley Hopkins
Photos by: Adam Beach Photography