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Excerpted from For the Love of God  by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield (editors). Copyright 1990 by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"I can pick up a blade of grass and experience its twenty-billion-year history and its color, shape, and form."

Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield (editors)
For the Love of God
, Part 4

Creation Spirituality
by Matthew Fox, Ph.D.

"When Im operating at my best, my work is my prayer. It comes out of the same place that prayer comes out of the center, the heart."

My relationship with God started when I was a child. I was raised in a practicing Roman Catholic home, with my parents and six brothers and sisters. When I was twelve, I had polio and lost my ability to walk. I was in the hospital for many months, and people didnt think I would ever walk again. My adolescent desire was to play football. I had to let go of that as well as much of everyday living. Children tend to face death (and letting go) more directly than adults do. Consequently, it was a great maturing experience for me.

When I regained the use of my legs and was able to do things like play football, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for something that I had previously taken for granted my ability to walk. From that time on, gratitude has been at the heart of my spirituality. It has to do with awe the awe of having legs, or anything else that works, the awe of just being here.

That was when I started thinking of becoming a priest. Many things affected this decision. There were the wonderful Wisconsin lakes and fields and woods where I would pray. There was the Catholic Mass, especially the Saturday masses, when priests read the wisdom literature from the Hebrew Bible. Those texts are, in effect, feminist and cosmological readings about the Mother Goddess. They spoke to my soul; they brought me, as a male, the feminine dimension of divinity, which nothing else in the 1950s culture was doing.

Then there was music. I heard Beethoven for the first time when I was in high school, and it made my soul leap. And there was literature - the works of Shakespeare and, above all, Tolstoy's War and Peace.

My experience with prayer is both mystical and prophetic. The mystical aspect is the falling in love with life. The prophetic aspect is the standing up to the crucifixion of Divinity, which happens every time there is injustice. That combination of pleasure (mysticism) and struggle (the prophetic) is the dialectic that creates my spirituality and my experiences with God.

There are many paths to God. Four in particular correspond to what I name in my theology "The Four Paths of Creation Spirituality." Divinity is present for me in all four paths.

The first path is the Via Positiva, or the experience of divinity as the blessing of creation. It's what Meister Eckhart, the thirteenth-century theologian, called "is-ness." I can pick up a blade of grass and experience its twenty-billion-year history and its color, shape, and form. Artists can do this: They draw a blade of grass and capture its divinity. We can feel awe when we experience the planet, or a dog, or a friend. Anything that has "being" is holy. God dwells there and speaks as revelation.

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