Water Buffalo Theology

26 April 09 | Posted in Animals, Arts and Letters, Friends, Spirituality

The Rev. Dr. Kosuke Koyama, a Japanese Christian theologian who was a proponent of contextual theologies rooted in the experiences of everyday people, died March 25, 2009 in Springfield, Mass. Koyama, 79, taught at the Union Theological Seminary in New York.

His 1974 book, Water Buffalo Theology, was “one of the first books truly to do theology out of the setting of Asian villages,” said Donald Shriver, president emeritus. kosuke-koyama-2

As a missionary in northern Thailand, Koyama said he was inspired to write the book as he listened to the “fugue of the bullfrogs” while watching farmers working with water buffaloes in the rice fields.

“The water buffaloes tell me that I must preach to these farmers in the simplest sentence structure,” he wrote. “They remind me to discard all the abstract ideas and to use exclusively objects that are immediately tangible. ‘Sticky rice,’ ‘banana,’ ‘pepper,’ ‘dog,’ ‘cat,’ ‘bicycle,”rainy season,”leaking house,’ ‘fishing,’ ‘cockfighting,’ ‘lottery,’ ‘stomachache’–these are meaningful words for them.”  water-buff-3

Directed at the concerns of peasants, the book points out that Christianity and Buddhism do not communicate; rather Christians and Buddhists do. Rev. Dr. Koyama advocated seeing God “in the faces of people” to achieve good neighborliness among religions.  He spoke of trying to “season” the Aristotelian roots of Western theology with Buddhist “salt.”

Besides Water Buffalo Theology, Dr. Koyama wrote 12 other books including Three Mile an Hour God (1980) which reflects his thought that God moves at walking speed through the countryside.

Kosuke Koyama was born on December 10, 1929 in Tokyo.  In 1945, as American bombs rained down on Tokyo, he was baptised as a Christian. He was struck by the courageous words of the presiding pastor, who told him that God called on him to love everybody, “even the Americans.”

Once, in discussing death, Rev. Dr. Koyama recalled the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. He said Jesus would be with others the same way: “Looking into our eyes and heart, Jesus would say: ‘You’ve had a difficult journey. You must be tired, and dirty.  Let me wash your feet. The banquet’s ready.'”

Sacred Epiphany Dip

8 February 09 | Posted in Events, Friends, Spirituality

In the snowy silence of a Moscow park, a 26-year-0ld businessman, Aleksandr Pushkov, stood naked except for his bathing suit, a column of steam rising from his body. His clothes were piled up under a tree, and he had just climbed out of a hole in the ice.

It was the 7th time he took part in an Epiphany ritual: the trance-like preparation, the electric shock of the ice-cold water and and 20 0r 30 second wait for a feeling he described as “nirvana.” As cross-country skiers picked their way through the woods, Mr. Pushkov stood by himself in the snow, barefoot and steaming.

On Russian Orthodox Epiphany, roughly 30,000 Moscovites lined up to dunk themselves in icy rivers and ponds, city officials said. The annual ritual baptism, which is believed to wash away sins, is enjoying a boisterous revival after being banished to villages during the Soviet era, said Boris F. Dubin, a sociologist with Moscow’s Levada Center. The immersion ritual satisfies a public hunger, he said, for “something that is truly Russian, ancient, real. For what distinguishes us from other people.” russian-ritual.jpg

“Each country has something that is instrinsic to it,” said Aleksandr Gorlopan, 43, who was warming himself with a combination of hot tea and Captain Morgan rum. Mr. Gorlopan, who gave his profession as “traveler,” said the tradition dated back to the tiny Slavic tribes that scattered south from Scandinavia–nomads, he said, with “wild souls.” “We are made of water,” he said. “Without water we cannot survive.”

Galina Burasvetova, a 50-year-old hairdresser in a red bikini, said she had first taken part in the ritual during an agonizing period in her life, when she was raising three children on a vanishing income. Afterward, she felt she had the moral strength to go on.

Mr. Dubin, the sociologist, said the practice’s popularity had less to do with religious revival than with enthusiastic coverage by Russian television. By others said it proved that 74 years of Communist rule were unable to stamp out the tradition, which holds that a priest’s blessing temporarily transforms water into the River Jordan, where Jesus was baptised.  Even at the height of state atheism, said Father Vsevolod Chaplin, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, “the lines for holy water were longer than the lines at Lenin’s mausoleum.” russian-ritual-2.jpg

The Story of the Pelican

2 November 08 | Posted in Animals, Friends, Spirituality

 I found “The Story of the Pelican” on the insightful blog, Ad Dominum

The post appeared on September 21, 2008 shortly after Hurricane Ike. It wove the story of the pelican victims of the hurricane with Catholic religious symbols, including a stiking image on a priest’s chasuble of a pelican feeding it young. pel2.jpg

“Many people are surprised to learn that the pelican is a very ancient Christian symbol. It is a symbol of our Redeemer and of the atonement. In those days, people believed that the pelican would wound itself to feed its babies when it could not find food elsewhere.” pelprime.jpg

“Thomas Aquinas even mentioned pelicans in his Adoro Te: ‘Pelican of mercy, cleanse me in thy precious blood.’”

“We now know that this myth that developed around the pelican is not factually true. Pelicans do not feed bits of themselves to their babies, but there are good reasons for people to even mistakenly have believed that they did. One reason for this belief is that sometimes pelicans can suffer from a disease that leaves a red mark on their chests. Also, it may look as if a pelican is stabbing at itself when it puts its beak to its chest to fully empty its pouch.”

“Our Pelican was born, lived, and died with all of us in mind, even us two thousand years later. He showed us how to live in love, and he showed us love in death. And like a mother pelican, he will stay with us even when the sky is dark and the wind is blowing, because that is his love for us.”

Thanks to Thom for this wonderful post.

Fran Sorin: Exploring Spirituality in the Garden

26 July 08 | Posted in Friends, Garden, Spirituality

“After a few hours of sweating with dirt all over me and insects buzzing around the upper half of my body, I may begin to get a sense of being in tune with nature.” 

“It’s at these moments where I take note of a worm that is maneuvering its way out of the dirt or a butterfly that lands silently on a bush next to me.”

“With subtlety and a total lack of self consciousness, I come out of myself, look around, marvel at the majesty of what I am experiencing and begin to take note that I have entered some type of altered state of consciousness.”

Read the whole article here.

Fran Sorin is recognized as one of America’s leading gardening experts. fran-sorin.jpg

Catholics Lauded in Sierra Club Book

Catholics are prominently featured in a new Sierra Club book, Faith in Action: Communities of Faith Bring Hope for the Planet. The book highlights faith-led environmental action in each of the 50 states plus Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. sierra-club.jpg

Don Conklin and Ellen Buelow, members of Holy Rosary Parish in Albuquerque, NM, helped engineer a light-bulb swap–incandescent bulbs for energy-saving compact flurorescent bulbs. Before the program was over, 3,000 bulbs changed hands.

“We did this as a Lenten project,” said Conklin, a pastoral associate at the 2,700-household parish. “And it didn’t cost us a thing. It was sponsored by the Sierra Club and PNM,” the electric company serving the Albuquerque area.

The bulbs were distributed during an annual parish awareness weekend. “We’re planning our next awareness weekend and we’re coming up with the theme of helping families,” Buelow told Catholic News Service. “We’d like to get the concept of simple living in there. Economize and save the environment.”

The Faith in Action book also included these Catholic-led initiatives:

– In Colorado, Bishops Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs and Arthur N. Tafoya of Pueblo called for a unified response after sewerage spills threatened Fountain Creek, which runs through their communities. The bishops’ statement had a “significant impact” said Ross Vincent, vice chair of the Sangre de Cristo group of Sierra’s Rocky Mountain chapter. “People who wanted to believe things were OK with Fountain Creek began to pay attention and realize something needed to be done. The bishops’ statement came at a critical time and it was deeply appreciated.”

– In New Orleans, members of Mary, Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church and their pastor, Father Vien The Nguyen, were able to halt post-Hurricane Katrina operations at a landfill that was not only close to their neighborhood, but was adajacent to a protected wildlife sanctuary. More than 200,000 cubic yards of waste from Katrina had been dumped in the landfill, which still leaks toxins into a canal used by the Vietnamese community for irrigation and fishing.

– The Michigan Catholic Rural Life Coalition used the National Catholic Rural Life Conference’s “Eating Is A Moral Act” program to demonstrate the many ethical implications of consumers’ food purchases. The coalition also educates the public about the need to promote stewardship of the land and promotes a sustainable food system that nourishes people, local communities and the earth.

– In response to the U.S. Catholic bishops’ call for action on global warming, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis co-sponsored, “Global Warming: A Catholic Perspective.” One thousand people from 95 parishes attended the event to address the effects of global warming on the environment and the world’s poor communities.

Several parishes have now established their own “global warming action teams.” One of them, St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis, launched a Green Power Campaign to encourage parishioners to purchase wind-generated energy.

-In Caguas, Puerto Rico, Father Pedro Ortiz and the Catholic parish of Nuesta Senora de la Providencia formed the Alianza Comunitaria y Ambiental en Accion Solidaria (Community and Environmental Alliance in Solidarity) in April 2007. The parish sets aside portions of its liturgical calendar for reflection on relevant social issues. Now, 100 community organizations, nonprofits, churches and universities from across the island with common concern for the environment have joined the alliance.