Christine Valters Paintner, who is profiled in S&P's Living Spiritual Teachers Project, is the online Abbess at the Abbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery offering classes and resources on contemplative expression. She has written 13 books and offers retreats and pilgrimages in Ireland, Scotland, Austria, and Germany. In one of her reflections on her life and ministry, Paintner calls herself a poet, a hermit, and a mystic. All three of these spiritual streams form the foundation for this uplifting book.
We find the idea that Earth is our original monastery, the place where we learn contemplative practices, to be very appealing. As Paintner writes, it is "the place where we learn our most fundamental prayers, hear the call of the wild arising at dawn that awakens us to a new day, participate in the primal liturgy of praise unfolding all around us, and experience the wisdom and guidance of the seasons."
Paintner has structured the book around seven ways of seeing Earth in light of faith:
Earth as the Original Cathedral
Earth as the Original Scriptures
Earth as the Original Saints
Earth as the Original Spiritual Directors
Earth as the Original Icon
Earth as the Original Sacrament
Earth as the Original Liturgy
She links each understanding to a story from a Christian saint, a spiritual practice, a scripture reflection (written by the author's husband), a meditation, a contemplative walk, a herbal invitation, a visual art exploration, a writing exploration, poems, and a blessing.
For example, in the chapter on "Earth as Original Icon," Paintner notes that we must acknowledge the havoc humans have wrecked upon nature: "Nature as icon reveals to us both the glory of divine creation and also the reality of human development and the rampant use of plastics, toxins, chemicals, and fossil fuels." She then explains "The Practice of Lament" and encourages us to engage in "An Ecological Examen."
Three cheers for Paintner's bold initiatives which come down to a revolution of love, intimacy with the good earth, a rendezvous with our inner wildness, and a physical connection with creation. Three cheers for Paintner who yearns for a new Pentecost and provides both vital and wise ways to get there!