The summer solstice celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, the full blossoming and coming to fruition of seeds that have been sown. In the Christian calendar, this celebration is observed during the time of the feast of John the Baptist, who announces the birth of Christ, the Light of Love, which brings Life to the world. As the sun reaches its greatest extent in the northern hemisphere, we are reminded and come to celebrate the great power of the light the Creator has given to us and the marvel of its relationship to the planet Earth.
We know little of how the ancient Celts ritualized their observance of this time, but the writings of the early Christian monks indicate that hilltop bonfires were lit to honor the space between earth and heaven. Modern exploration of the heavens has opened for us the marvel of the relationship between the Sun and Planet Earth and of the interconnection of all the beings in the universe. We have altered this relationship by harmful practices such as misusing Earth’s gifts; generating greenhouse gases; and polluting the air, the land and the oceans. We know the urgency that faces us to correct the harm we have done.
The Christian tradition has shown us the mystery of God’s love flooding all of Earth. Here too we are aware of the harmful effects that our lack of love causes. The oneness of Earth and the universe is a reality that we have transgressed in our relationships with each other and with creation.
We will gather here at Mercy by the Sea, not to light bonfires, but to pledge our care of these relationships, to honor them and to celebrate both this great light of the Sun and the Light of Christ with which the Creator has blessed all of Earth.
Join us for a Celtic Prayer Circle on Thursday, June 20, to celebrate Litha. Although there is no charge, please register so that we know the number of participants who will attend.
We have received two books of divine revelation, the book of Scripture and the book of nature. Creation is a sacred text through which the presence of God is revealed. Mercy by the Sea and Mercy Farm are places of exquisite beauty where creation and the Divine are met. As I gaze upon the water or walk the land, it is clear in me that our relationship with the Divine and creation is integral to the flourishing of all beings.
Since 2005, the Sisters of Mercy have had a commitment “to reverence Earth and work more effectively toward the sustainability of life.” There are many ways this commitment has been integrated into Mercy ministries. The Northeast Community initiated the work of Mercy Ecology in 2006. An eco-spirituality retreat house and farm in Benson, Vermont, and New Dawn Center for education in Cumberland, Rhode Island were established. (New Dawn has since had to close.) Mercy by the Sea was also part of this effort before closing for renovation. The dream was to help bring about a healing of Earth and provide a haven of peace where people could reconnect with the natural world through educational and experiential opportunities.
As of September 2018, I am thrilled to step into a collaboration between Mercy Ecology and Mercy by the Sea developing and offering eco-spirituality programs. My focus is to deepen the efforts of making the two books of divine revelation evident, vibrant and accessible. Through integrating the spirituality of ecology into programs, practices and decision-making, I hope that all who visit will experience the gifts of creation and come to know what Teilhard de Chardin called the “breathing together of all things.”
One summer several years ago, I joined my niece and her family at a Family Camp held at Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg, California. One of the afternoon activities was canoeing on a local river. I hadn’t canoed since Girl Scout camp more than 40 years ago, and I discovered that I’m an abysmal paddler. Who had time to commune with nature when we kept zig-zagging down the river despite being helped by the current. Then, far worse, we struggled mightily to get back to the dock. As I recall, we were finally ignominiously towed in.
So it was with curiosity and vicarious pleasure that I read about the River of Life: Connecticut River Pilgrimage, 2017. At the suggestion of The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire; with the support of the seven New England Episcopal dioceses; and in partnership with other organizations, a 40-day, 406-mile river pilgrimage was launched.
Many of you who come to Mercy by the Sea see us as a unique, contemplative, restorative and transformative resource that helps you along your spiritual journey. But there are many other spiritual resources that can inspire you in between your visits. Here is a list of old favorites, like The Sun and Tikkun, and some valuable new finds like Anchor magazine and Relief. Check them out and see which one or ones speak to your heart.