Editor’s Note: Missioner SarahJane Cauzillo reflects on the constant cooperation and presence of the Creator and creation. She describes the mountains that have guided her heart towards a deeper connection with God.
The words of Cynthia Bourgeault – mystic, Episcopal priest, and writer – ran through my ears as I stood surveying the mountain range that lined the sky line: “All poets know that this world was made from the Eros [passionate love] of God, from [His/Her] yearning to be seen and beloved, from [His/Her] energy to unite us.” My eyes lowered to the dirt path that winds around the small patch of corn stalks, and I took a deep breath. As the air entered my lungs and my heart beat, it was as if I could feel that yearning of God pulsating through my body. It felt good.
It was not, however, that way for a long time last year. Amongst everything else that changed in my first year in Bolivia, I did not expect my faith to be one of them. In those many difficult and transitional months last year, I struggled to “find” God. I felt lost and desperate, seeking Him/Her in every chapel I could find and in every bead of the Rosary I prayed (countless times). My Spiritual Director gently accompanied me, reassured me that God could not be lost (as He/She is not really an object one can possess or not possess), and encouraged me to be led by my own longings, suggesting that God might be leading me to a new way of uniting us than before.
“Have you felt God’s presence at all recently?” My Spiritual Director asked me one day. After a brief pause, it dawned on me:
“Yes. In the mountains. It is the only place I seem to see Him/Her lately.” My Spiritual Director just smiled.
It was these moments last year – these grapplings, struggles, and consolations of the mountains – in which God began to reveal to me the mysterious, magnificent, and ancient truth of the Divine Presence absolutely everywhere, unconditionally and without boundaries. In the union of God’s spirit and the material world – dirt, rock, sun, human hands, and bread, God has been showing me the creative and beautiful abundance of His/Her love.
It was while I was enjoying a precious day outside the city recently that I was re-soaking in these memories and having these wildly large thoughts – all of course, while staring at that Divine mountain range. Down here in South America, we are currently experiencing late summer – the harvest season. In this time, which also lines up with the traditional celebration of Carnaval, many people celebrate with the ch’allah, which involves burning k’oa – a charcoal fire of incense, among other times.
This indigenous tradition is done to thank the Mother Earth, Pachamama, for all She has given us in the last year and to ask for another fruitful year. I was outside the city because I was privileged to be invited to my friend’s home to participate in this ritual. “The earth,” my friend told me as we prepared the k’oa, “is the most sacred thing we have.” The most sacred! And in all reality, breathing deeply once again, I felt my whole body respond in agreement with an “Amen”.
The earth, just practically, holds us, feeds us, clothes us, shelters us, and sustains us. God, the Most Divine Creator, works through and with this Earth to constantly provide and give to us. My friend called to my attention the ground, the fire we burned, and I realized what holy and sacred space was this very dirt that I stood on. No church steeple in sight. God’s wondrous Presence is revealed to us in the peach trees we pick, and the corn stalks we run our hands through, and the hands of the friends that we hold. And, quite honestly, in all of the natural world. It is all sacred because it is the breath and gift and manifestation of God’s love for us. His/Her physical yearning to connect with us.
I love to leave the city of Cochabamba, getting closer to those mountain bases and the freshly tilled fields of dirt because I feel more deeply connected to God there. It is out there that I can breathe in the physical Incarnation of God’s great love for me when the kicked up dirt blows in the wind cascading down the Andes slopes. I, too, in these moments breathe out and reciprocate the erotic, passionate, and creative love of God. I feel united to God, and to His/Her consecrated creation. As I burned k’oa out in the open – albeit, an unfamiliar form of worship to a cradle-Catholic, it felt like such an authentic ritual of gratitude, thanksgiving and communion with God.
Reflection Question: Where do you feel God’s presence in creation? And how can you prayerfully lean on creation in a more intimate way?