Passion of the Earth
In 2003, the Sisters commissioned fabric artist Melanie Weidner to create The Passion of the Earth, a multi-media project which is a blend of the traditional Catholic Stations of the Cross devotion and the Universe Story, as presented in the work of Thomas Berry.
On display at the Spirit Center, the seven vibrant images tell the story of the earth, from creation to the current moment when humanity must decide whether to care for this gift of God’s creation or whether to continue on the path of destruction.
Weidner’s work is rooted in a commitment to justice and flows from the depths of her faith. To see more of her artwork, go to her website: www.listenforjoy.com. On her site Weidner has included her own thoughts on the making of this project of Passion.
A Narrative of the Project
by Sister Teresa Jackson
The Passion of the Earth can perhaps best be described as a cross between the traditional Catholic Stations of the Cross and the contemporary “Cosmic Walk.” Like the Stations of the Cross, it is a story told in several parts designed to help people connect to strong, emotional narrative and images. Like the new “cosmic walks,” it is a creative telling of the origins and development of our universe incorporating the new sciences, art and poetry. Hopefully, like both of these, The Passion of the Earth story will capture imaginations and invite people to think about creation and its unfolding in new ways.
Specifically, The Passion of the Earth spiritual exercise is a narrative divided into seven sections or “stations” telling a version of the creation story. Each station includes a piece of writing and a piece of art. The artwork hangs in the Monastery of St. Gertrude’s Spirit Center. Future plans include reproductions being placed along a path on the monastery grounds allowing guests to literally walk through the story and its implications on the earth itself.
Unlike many such creation narratives that are popular today, The Passion of the Earth story is intentionally theocentric, naming and claiming God as the ultimate creator and source. The Passion of the Earth also intentionally alludes to the story of the Passion of Christ. Stations 1 through 4 describe the cosmos and the earth in a way that connects with the creation story of Genesis. Stations 5 through 7 describe the ongoing destruction of earth’s resources and the decision that humanity needs to make to either heal or continue to destroy the earth.
In order to speak to a wide variety of people, the art and narrative parts of the stations are designed to be poetic, open-ended, and evocative, rather than literal and descriptive. The language and art are not meant to be either scientific or theological, but are meant to encourage people to think in new ways and make new connections between their faith and their relationship with the earth.
As Christians, we can say that our earth and the entire cosmos are deep expressions of God’s loving, creative nature. The gift of the earth which sustains all life is purely a manifestation of grace. The Passion of the Earth, then, is simply one way to invite people to recognize and give thanks for that gift.
The Passion of the Earth is designed to be a spiritual exercise that enables people to see the earth and the cosmos not only as God’s creation, but as the most basic expression of God’s very self. The earth and the cosmos are not inanimate objects for human beings to use, abuse, and destroy as they see fit, but a gift of God our creator to reverence and cherish. Humanity does not stand above creation as dominating caretakers, but rather we humans stand within its midst as one small part of the vast expression of the cosmos.
As human beings, our self-reflective awareness gives to us special obligation to understand and respond to this gift of creation. As humanity has sought to dominate and indiscriminately use the resources of the earth, often in destructive ways, humanity now has an obligation to understand and heal our relationship with the earth.