|Chartres Journal 2 -- Veriditas and veriditas|
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower...
From the day I heard Ann Miller read that first line of Dylan Thomas' poem in my sophomore English class at Baylor University until now, I have been fascinated by what Hildegard of Bingen called "the greening power of God."
It's the lifeforce, that greening power, bidden by its own timetable to cause a tree to bud or flower, a rose to unfold, a bird to begin to sing, a yearling to suddenly decide to get up and walk.
Who knows what sets off that impulse to walk? Why this day and not the day before? And isn't it that same lifeforce that compels that yearling to keep on getting up and falling until she walks and then runs and then.....dances?
I find it eternally intriguing that some think that the hormone that starts the labor process begins with the baby who "knows" that it's time to leave the constraint of his mother's womb and dare to be born. I love it, as well, that there is disagreement about that scientific fact; my OB/gyn friend says, with his eyes twinkling, "We just aren't sure; it's mystery."
The word veriditas unites two Latin words, green and truth. It seems that Hildegard, a keen observer and lover of nature, coined the word to describe nature's healing power and God's power at work in and through nature. A 12th century mystic and abbess, Hildegard understood deeply about cooperating with the greening power of God.
Lauren Artress discovered the labyrinth through a workshop while she was Canon of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and her discovery was life-changing. A lover of the work of Hildegard, Lauren created a non-profit organization in 1996 to introduce people to the practice of labyrinth walking and educate us about the history and process of the labyrinth, naming the organization Veriditas -- "greening power." You can read about her work in her now classic book Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice, as well as The Sacred Path Companion: A Guide to Walking the Labyrinth to Heal and Transform.
What has happened through Lauren Artress is evidence of the reality and power of veriditas. Lauren's passion for the spiritual practice of labyrinth walking, her commitment to her vision and passion and the obvious need in the culture for the labyrinth are seen in the phenomenal growth of interest in labyrinth walking around the world. Labyrinth walking meets a deep spiritual hunger in our time, and the proliferation of labyrinths world-wide since Lauren's first publicized labyrinth walk in December of 1991 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco indicate what can happen when one human being with a vision and passion cooperates with the greening power of God.
In talking about the history of the labyrinth and the current interest in labyrinth walking, Lauren told us during our facilitator training that when there is chaos in the culture, the labyrinth re-appears. A quote from the Los Angeles Times states, "As you follow the winding path for twenty minutes or so, you might cry tears of grief or joy, solve the riddle of a messed-up family or work life, feel better about an illness, or gain spiritual insight."
Another of my teachers, Pittman McGehee, often talks about the fact that people are so starved for spiritual food and nurturance today that they will take any junk food that is offered. Walking the labyrinth, often seen as a symbol of life's journey and/or our journey to God, labyrinth walking has the capacity to meet that deep spiritual hunger.
The New York Times coined the term "the Labyrinth Movement", and it was that mysterious urge to experience the labyrinth that began to call to me when I was completing my training in the Spiritual Direction Institute at the Cenacle Retreat House in Houston, Texas, in 1996. During that training, I had read Lauren's book; looking back, I realize that my curiosity about the labyrinth was the greening power of God, sparking my curiosity. Now I understand that my yearning to know about the labyrinth, to experience the labyrinth walk, to go to the workshops sponsored by Veriditas and be taught by Lauren Artress were part of that lifeforce, the greening power of God, at work in my own life.
From 1998, when I saw the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral and picked up a brochure about the Chartres workshops, until the fall of 2010, that impulse and desire waxed and waned with life, responsibilities and obligations until, in the fulness of time, I could fully cooperate with that greening power and get myself to Chartres for the fulfillment of a dream.
Here is one thing I'm pretty sure about: Life is about making choices, a zillion of them every day, and by our choices we shape our lives and create the choices that follow.
For my entire adult life, a "memory verse" in Deuteronomy 30:19 has been a light for me. It is recorded there that God said to the children of Israel, "I have set before you today life and death, blessing and curse; therefore, choose life.
I was young and so full of that lifeforce when I first heard Dylan Thomas' poem. Through the years, life has taken its toll now and then, and sometimes it's been hard to discern between that which was life-giving and that which was death-dealing. Sometimes, I've had to fall back on wanting to choose life because I didn't have the energy to do anything more than want to do that, and I've gone through those desert times of spiritual and emotional drought when it seemed that the lifeforce might not come back.
Over time, I have learned that the greening power of God -- veriditas -- is everywhere. It is in our very bodies and it is in the natural world. It is in the events, conversations, relationships and challenges of life itself. God's greening power is to be discovered. It can be accessed. And, best of all, we get to choose to cooperate with the lifeforce in everyday, ordinary life. How great is that?
What about you?
Where do you experience Hlidegard's greening power?
What spiritual practice(s) keep you in contact with that lifeforce and help you cooperate with it, choosing life and blessing?
In what ways do you stifle, muffle, ignore or defy that greening power?
Do you numb yourself with either a substance, a repetitive behavior or activity, a process or a person, so that you have lost touch with your own inner GPS, that lifeforce within you? If so, do you know why you do that?
In what ways are you choosing life and blessing? When do you choose death and curse?
About what things are you curious?
Could your curiosity be the lifeforce, that greening power, trying to push through the hard shell of your defenses or denial?
Could your restlessness be the result of your pushing down the lifeforce, ignoring it or refusing to cooperate with it?
What about that fatigue you've got? What's that about?
And your depression? What about that irritability you keep blaming on ....whatever?
Could all of those "symptoms" be the lifeforce, trying to get your attention?
Where is Hildegard's greening power wanting to lead you?
Remember Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, and his wonderful anthem, "To life!"?
Just for today, dare to make a list of the things in your life that are life-giving, and those that are not life-giving and may even be death-dealing. Take a look at yourself, and then dare to choose veriditas -- the green force and truth.
Grace to you--
(I think another synonym for grace just might be veriditas -- life, flowing unhindered, for us and through us.)