Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Welcome to the Symposium on Creation Spirituality

Opening words of welcome at the Symposium on Creation Spirituality held at the Carmelite Centre in Middle Park, Thursday 26th to Saturday 28th of May.

Philip Harvey

As the first person to speak at this Symposium  I wish first to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land, the Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation, past and present, upon which our talks are taking place.

On behalf of the Carmelite Province of Australia Timor Leste and the Carmelite Centre and Carmelite Library, I wish to welcome you all to the Symposium, both presenters and all participants who are here to listen to the thoughtful words and see the many wonders available to all of us. Over the next three days we will meet new ideas and ancient wisdom, things we never imagined and things we live with every day, whether we like it or not.

Creation Spirituality is signalled at the very opening of Jewish and Christian Scripture: “In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth. And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

Creation is about as big as it gets. Our intention in opening up the discussion on Creation Spirituality is to look at as many aspects as possible. Creation is deep fabled in all cultures and we each arrive today with our own special versions of the Creation and of ourselves in that reality. 

We inherit a long and ambiguous history of understanding, an all too human understanding. In very recent times we have seen Bartholomew, the Archbishop and Patriarch of Constantinople, attend the papal inauguration of Pope Francis in Rome, the first time that the spiritual head of the Orthodox Church has done this since the Great Schism of 1054. Bartholomew is an environmentalist and is popularly known as ‘The Green Patriarch’. 

He writes: "The word “ecology” contains the prefix “eco,” which derives from the Greek word oikos, signifying “home” or “dwelling.” How unfortunate, then, and indeed how selfish it is that we have reduced its meaning and restricted its application. This world is indeed our home. Yet it is also the home of everyone, just as it is the home of every animal creature and of every form of life created by God. It is a sign of arrogance to presume that we human beings alone inhabit this world. Moreover, it is a sign of arrogance to imagine that only the present generation enjoys its resources."

The title of our Symposium is 'Care for All That Exists'. This line comes from Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si and is a core summary of the Canticle of Saint Francis of Assisi. It is almost a year since that encyclical was released, a document of international standing that will be looked at by several speakers and is formative for this Symposium.

Laudato sie, mi Signore cum tucte le Tue creature,
spetialmente messor lo frate Sole,
lo qual è iorno, et allumini noi per lui.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendour!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

The context of our Symposium is unavoidable. Both in the big picture and the small picture of our world-home, we are called to meet the exploitation and degradation of that home. The Carmelite Eduardo Agosta Scarel, in his paper given in Australia three years ago ‘Clues to a Contemplative Ecology’, uses an expression of Saint John of the Cross. “The idea is to contribute to the recognition, or to fall into awareness … that a real awakening of conscience is urgent to resolve the crisis of creation’s health.” To fall into awareness is a main purpose of this Symposium.

Before inviting Fr Ken Petersen to give the first presentation, I wish to give thanks to two early advisers for this event, Stephen Ames and Anne Boyd. We will be hearing Stephen this afternoon. Anne, who conducts the Eco-Spirituality Group here at the Carmelite Centre, sends greetings from Ireland where she is attending special meetings of her Order. I wish also to thank in advance all of our speakers, for their time and their thought in assembling their presentations for us. We look forward to hearing their words and learning from their knowledge and experience.

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