Most of us don’t realize just how much we need the Earth for our spiritual vitality and wellbeing. Because the natural world is “always there,” we take it for granted and seldom connect it to our spirituality. We think we need the church for our spiritual lives, but not nature. We assume our spirituality is independent of what is happening in nature.
Think for a moment how the major Catholic feasts are timed to coincide with events in nature. Look how much Christmas is built on the natural world. The winter solstice and symbolism of light overcoming the darkness mirrors Christ the light coming to remove the darkness of sin. The shepherd saw angels in the night sky and the magi followed a star (which we can hardly imagine because we can’t see the stars where most of us live!) And wouldn’t the story lose a lot if Jesus had been born in a run-down shelter in the inner city instead of a stable? The animals lend texture, earthiness, and warmth to the event.