Earth Church

Paul Veliyathil
3 min readMar 7, 2023

My awareness of the Earth as Holy Ground was further buttressed by reflecting on the lives of Jesus, Mohammed, and Buddha. Each of them is believed to have attained their transformation, not by praying in man-made basilicas, cathedrals, or temples, but in a barren desert, a dark cave, and under a tree, respectively.

Following his baptism, Jesus spent forty days and nights in a desert fasting and praying. Mohamed is believed to have retreated into a cave where he received revelations from the angel Gabriel. Buddha meditated in nature and was awakened under a tree next to a river.

When his wife Yashodhara questioned his enlightenment, Buddha is believed to have silently touched the Earth as a witness to his transformation.

Buddha taught in the natural world and died outdoors beneath a tree. Jesus never taught in the temple but taught in the outdoors — on the mountain (Sermon on the Mount), and at the seaside. He prayed in the garden, was killed on a hill, buried in a garden, and appeared to his disciples on the road and at the side of a river.

When you look at the entire Earth as holy ground you will have a renewed respect for environmental concerns. Polluted rivers and shrinking forests will bother you. Watching millions of acres of the Amazon on fire will break your heart. You will be so conscious of how you drive and how much you drive because every time you drive you are leaving a carbon footprint on Earth. You will walk more and drive less. You will shut off the engine rather than idle for long periods of time. You will refrain from throwing things out the window to the street.

Ever since I became conscious of the Earth as holy ground, I cannot even throw a gum wrapper on the ground. In the olden days, I used to think this little gum wrap is not going to hurt the Earth. Now I will put it in my pocket and take it home and empty it into a waste basket.

The image that helps me to be so conscious of the harm a gum wrap does to the Earth, is imagining the face of my mother. I love my mother so much that I would never think of disfiguring her with dirt on her face or throwing garbage at her face. Every time you mistreat the Earth, you are mistreating your mother — holy Mother Earth.

Awareness of the Earth as holy ground should naturally extend our awareness of our body as holy too because our body comes from the Earth and is part of it.

Unfortunately, I grew up believing that the body is bad. It is the source of temptation. During my priestly formation, I was told that life is a constant fight against the evil forces of the world, Satan, and the body. In my expanded awareness about the Earth as holy and wholesome, along with theologian Diarmuid O’Murchu, I now realize that

“As embodied creatures in an embodied universe, we incarcerate ourselves when we submit to a spirituality that decries both our materiality and our earthiness.”

We have been brainwashed for so long that since our bodies are the source and cause of sin, we need to focus on our soul and its salvation. We were also told that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. It seems that the former message got stuck in our consciousness more than the latter. The fragmentation caused by placing body and soul in separate camps needs to be overcome by the new awareness about their wholeness and unity. It is imperative that we see our embodiment as a blessing and the Earth from which we emanate as blessed.

Consider this question posed by spiritual writer Sallie McFague:

“What if we saw the Earth as part of the body of God, not as separate from God (who dwells elsewhere), but as the visible reality of the invisible God?”

If the essence of God is love, then as poet Wendell Berry says,

“That divine love has to wear a face and that face is our neighborhood, our neighbors, other creatures, and the Earth itself.”

(from Cosmic Kindergarten: Earthly Lessons for a Heavenly Life)

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Paul Veliyathil

I am a citizen of India by birth, a citizen of the united states by choice and a citizen of the world at heart.