Book Review: Earth Our Original Monastery

Book Review: Earth Our Original Monastery

Christine V. Paintner, Earth Our Original Monastery: Cultivating Wonder and Gratitude Through Intimacy with Nature (Notre Dame: Sorin Books, 2020).

‘Cultivating wonder and gratitude through intimacy with nature’

In this reflection by Christine Paintner, who is the online abbess for Abbey of the Arts, shares how we can meet God in our everyday lives, fostering contemplative living in the modern world through the lens of the Western monastic tradition of closeness to nature.

Christine has devised seven sets of transformative practices under such headings as;

‘Earth as the Original Cathedral’,

‘Earth as the Original Scriptures’,

‘Earth as the Original Saints’,

‘Earth as the Original Spiritual Directors’,

‘Earth as the Original Icon’,

‘Earth as the Original Sacrament’,

‘Earth as the Original Liturgy’.

Under each heading the practices include reading, scripture reflection, meditation, a contemplative walk, a ritual with herbs, artistic expression, writing and a blessing. It is a rich resource for fostering ecological conversion into the future. Kevin McDonnell in his essay ‘The Role of Place in Ecological Conversion’ for the September 2021 journal The Way says “there is a strong link between deep ecological awareness and spirituality”.

The purpose of contemplative living, Christine Valters Paintner suggests, is to allow you to integrate the pieces of your life within yourself, in your community, and in the world around you. When you pay attention to each moment, you nurture your ability to see God’s actions in those moments. In Earth, Our Original Monastery, Paintner invites you to begin the journey of contemplative living by focusing on the image of the earth as your original monastery—the place where you learn your most fundamental prayers, participate in each day’s liturgy of praise, and experience the wisdom of the seasons.

As you explore what these connections between the earth and faith mean for how to see God in the world around you, you can also look at saints and mystics who experienced nature and the flow of the divine in similar ways.

Thank you to Sue Martin for this contribution to our newsletter. Sue is the Coordinator of JISA’s ‘Being with God in Nature’ minstiry. She is also chair of her local Landcare group conserving platypus’ in local waterways, and lives in Kenthurst in northwest Sydney, and loves to spend time with her five grandchildren.