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Parish Life blog: Mother Earth Day

Fr Andrew Hamilton |  09 April 2018

The hand of Mother Earth. Caribb-flickr.comIn early Christian times the earth was referred to as our mother and nurse. The nurse referred to was not a hospital nurse but a wet nurse who provides her own milk to the child. In the Roman world wealthy women commonly used them.

These qualities of mothers and nurses in giving life and sustaining life are celebrated in the day dedicated to mother earth. They picture the world as human, asking to be respected, and the object of gratitude and love, not simply a commodity to be used and thrown away.

To see the earth as mother and nurse is the opposite of conceiving it as a mine to be dug, a rubbish trip to be dumped in, a resource to be exploited or a piggybank to be turned into cash. In these ways of looking at the world our relationship to the world is one-sided. It is there as something for us to use. To call the earth our mother suggests that our relationship with it is reciprocal. We benefit from the earth and in return must treat it with respect. We must feed it properly so that it can in turn feed us.

Respect for our world requires us to move beyond seeing it as a thing separate from us, and beyond seeing ourselves as separate and isolated individuals. We must see ourselves as held within a network of relationships to the world and to other people both personally, through groups and through the institutions to which we are linked. We depend on these relationships for our lives, our education, our health, our security, our work and its remuneration, our ability to leave our children a safe and nurturing world, our treasured books, thoughts and music and our faith. Our lives and our happiness depend on us being able to trust our environment and other people.

We commonly divide our relationships into closed compartments. Our relationships with friends and family are separate from our relationships with strangers, our relationships with human beings separate from those with our environment. The image of mother earth tells us that all our relationships are interconnected. The way in which we relate to one another in the family is affected by the weather, by the internet and electricity, by being able to buy food, and ultimately by the health of our natural world.

We see in the lives of disadvantaged young people the effects of living with broken relationships. If we live in a dysfunctional family where we cannot trust that we are loved, that food will be on the table and that we shall ever find work, if we live in a world where the local parks are routinely trashed, we shall become isolated, lacking in wonder and respect for the world, and disconnected with society. Our growth will depend on companionship that slowly makes connections. That is the heart of mothering. The natural world, too, needs our mothering.

Image: The hand of Mother Earth. Caribb - flickr.com.

 

Topic tags: spiritualityandtheenvironment, environmentalissues, sustainableliving

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