Green Priestcraft: A ChristoPagan Pastoralia

"Pastoralia" is a somewhat archaic term denoting the spiritual, pastoral, and ritual care of a community.  "ChristoPagan" is a somewhat emergent term denoting a blend of Christian and Pagan thealogy, cosmology, and spirituality.  So, put the two together, and you have the hopefully intriguing (and, to some, infuriating) description of my own journey as a greenpriest.  I trust that folks of various and sundry spiritual persuasions will find something here to pique their interest, deepen their practice, and feed their souls.  Hear the Rune of Sophia: "God is Love, and Her body is all creation.  She is a Tree of Life, who gathers Her children in Love."  This is the conviction which guides me.  Blessed be.

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The Greening

 

Every year it surprises me. Saskatchewan winters are long and hard, beginning in November and not really done until well into April. That's a lot of snow and cold, grey skies and skeletal trees. Toward the end, the snow melts away and the ice releases its grip on the lake, but things still feel dead ... muddy and spent.

So it always surprises me when the Greening comes. The grass inches from brown to emerald. The trees and shrubs seem to produce a green haze, then suddenly give birth to a riot of foliage. The geese and pelicans return from the south, and the cattle shake off their winter lethargy. And beneath each of these signs of early summer moves a silent current, and underground stream of Life, flooding its way to the surface through a thousand hidden springs.

At our last full moon ceremony, a week into the holy tide of Beltane, and well into the fifty days of Resurrection, we celebrated the presence of this Life-Force by invoking the teachings of a 12th century abbess. In the Rhineland valleys of medieval Germany, Hildegard von Bingen grew, along with herb gardens and holiness, a brand new theological term. Viriditas she called it: the Greening Power of God. Then, as now, it was a startling and even revolutionary neologism. But for this Sybil of the Rhine, later to be named a Doctor of the Church, viriditas would become a key theological and spiritual vision of the life-giving power of Godde's Spirit in the Earth. Listen to what Hildegard says:

 

I, the fiery life of divine wisdom,

I ignite the beauty of the plains,

I sparkle the waters,

I burn in the sun, and the moon, and the stars.

With wisdom I order all rightly, and above all I determine truth.

I am the one whose praise echoes on high.

I adorn all the Earth.

I am the breeze that nurtures all things green.

I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits.

I am led in the Spirit to feed the purest streams.

I am the rain coming from the dew that causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life.

I call forth tears, the aroma of holy work.

I am the yearning for good.

 

For a ChristoPagan like me, viriditas is one of those magical words, a bridge between two theological worlds. It links the enchanted cosmos with the fecund Christ, and hints at the miraculous presence of Sophia, Holy Wisdom, incarnate in the flesh of the Living Earth.

Viriditas ... the Greening Power of God. May you know Her fertile healing, this day and forever.

Blessed be.

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The Rev. Shawn Sanford Beck is an ecumenical priest associated with the United Church of Canada, and a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. He is the author of Christian Animism, and the founder of the Ecumenical Companions of Sophia, an informal online community fostering Christian-Pagan dialogue and spiritual practice.  He lives with his family on an off-the-grid farm community in north-western Saskatchewan (Treaty Six Territory), where he is chaplain to the human and more-than-human wights of the community.  When not writing sermons, chopping wood, or practising magic, Shawn can be counted on to have his nose buried in a book. He can be contacted at greenpriest@hotmail.ca
 

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