O Lord, our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth! (Psalm 8:2a)
I just finished reading another book that I plan to incorporate into my course on “Faith, Spirituality, and Care for Creation.” It is the work of noted Biblical scholar Dianne Bergant. I was first introduced to Sr. Bergant’s work about seven years ago by one of my theology professors at the Edmund Rice School of Pastoral Ministry. This past year at my church, we used her video lectures on The Psalms (Now You Know Media, 2014) as the basis of one of our Adult Faith Development programs.
In A New Heaven, A New Earth: The Bible and Catholicity (Orbis, 2016), Dianne Bergant retrieves and interprets passages from every part of the Bible from the perspective of six ecojustice principles. In doing so, she starts with the significant themes of the Bible and considers whether or not we can see them as applications of one or more of the principles. She does not start with the ecojustice principles and search for specific texts that might “prove” the principle.
Sr. Bergant cites the ecojustice principles found in the work of Australian ecotheologian Norman C. Habel and his associates:
- Intrinsic worth – honoring the value of Earth and all of its components in themselves and not in their usefulness to human beings
- Interconnectedness – recognizing the interdependence of members of the community of Earth
- Voice – appreciating the unique way each member of the community of Earth expresses itself
- Purpose – claiming that all members of the community of Earth have a part in the dynamic cosmic design
- Mutual custodianship – acknowledging the role played by each member of the community of Earth in sustaining Earth’s delicate balance
- Resistance – maintaining that Earth itself struggles against its manipulation and exploitation.
In successive chapters, Sr. Bergant examines Scriptural passages in which water plays a prominent role, in which land was seen as part of the covenant made with God, and in which facets of ancient Israelite cosmological thinking are revealed. From the Gospels, Bergant uncovers the cosmological underpinnings of the nature imagery found especially in the parables of Jesus. She connects thinking about a new creation, a new heaven, and a new earth with themes found in the letters of Paul and in the Book of Revelation.
One of the creation psalms that is retrieved and interpreted in light of the six ecojustice principles is Psalm 8, an acknowledgment of divine majesty and human dignity.
I will sing of our majesty about the heavens.
When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers,
The moon and stars that you set in place –
What is man that you are mindful of him,
And a son of man that you care for him? (v. 2b, 4-5)
Dan Schutte set this psalm to music in the song, All My Days (1971). (You can find a performance of this song by googling the title and composer.)
All My Days
Dan Schutte, 1971, based on Psalm 8, a psalm praising God and Creation
Till the end of my days, O, Lord,
I will bless your name, sing your praise, give you thanks, all my days.
You have made me little less than a god,
and have lavished my heart with your love.
With dignity and honor you’ve clothed me,
given me rule over all.
You have blessed me with good things and plenty,
and surrounded my table with friends.
Their love and their laughter enrich me;
together we sing your praise.
Your sun and your moon give me light,
and your stars show the way through the night.
Your rivers and streams have refreshed me.
I will sing your praise.
How great is your love, O Father,
that you sent us your Savior Son.
His death and his rising will heal us,
and draw us all unto you.
Q. In what ways do you find God in creation?
Q. Which of the ecojustice principles reflects what is most important to you in the way you live?
Q. Are you surprised by the interpretation of the Bible in light of contemporary worldviews and the concern for the environment?