In the northern hemisphere we will shift this week into spring — or rather we are approaching the equinox. Spring weather is quite another matter. Here is a First Nations prayer from Canada to begin the season.
Note from R. Matthew Stevens
As a person of Aboriginal heritage I was privileged to serve for many years as a minister within First Nations communities. Being also regarded as an elder I was anxious to promote a blending of our traditional Native spiritual heritage, with the Christian practices the United Church of Canada follows amongst the dominant society. In this regard I find total harmony between the quintessential spirituality of both traditions, and re-introduced many of our symbols and approaches to the church service. As many within my congregations had suffered through Residential Schools, where missionary-types literally beat into them a residual fear of any Native ways , the re-introduction had to be done very gradually and carefully. At that time there were very little or no resources available that I could turn to, and so, although I am by no means a liturgist, I wrote some of my own
G’zhem-mnidoo (Creator God), Creator of all things great and small:
This morning I saw him – just where you called him to be! He wasn’t very big, actually kind of scrawny looking. But when the frost leaves Omizakamigokwe’s (Mother Earth’s) breast he will grow plump again. Here in the time of Ziisbaakdoke-Giizis (Sugar Moon Month) he will welcome growing stronger.
His bright red chest caught my eye. When I looked there was Opichiinh (Male Robin) standing quite alert on a patch of open grass between the last remaining snow drifts. His cheerful colour is such a contrast to all the muddier hues, that even though he was quiet, he made my heart sing. After this long winter season he is a welcome guest.
He is a tough one, this brave little warrior. He has survived winter, and so he must have taken well the teachings that only Gaa-biboonikaan (Winter Maker spirit) can provide. I don’t see his wiiwan (wife), but then her feathers are so much more subdued, that my tired old eyes may have missed her. I hope she also survived the winter, for she too will be a welcome guest.
G’zhem-mnidoo, it is good to be alive on this day. Soon the ziinzibaakwadaaboo (tree sap) will begin to flow in the sugar maples, and we will taste again the sweetness of life. The Zhaganaash (English speaking people) calendar may call this time “spring”, but my returning robin friend and I know that soon fresh ziinzibaakwad (maple sugar) will be a welcome flavour on our tongues.
And so it seems, Creator of all things, that we too have survived another winter. Do you ever wonder if your sentient creatures have learned much from the harsh lessons that
Gaa-biboonikaan teaches? Did you called our winged brothers and sisters to our land to
remind us of transforming new life, and teach us to sing again? That is a welcoming thought.
We come into our church circle around you, G’zhem-mnidoo, beginning to thaw from our self- imposed frostiness by the little signs you have shared with us. In our worship this morning may our words and songs be as genuine and honest as the robin’s melody. May we lift our heads high to the heavens, fill our lungs with life-giving air, and raising our voices in a harmonious chorus of thanks and praise. Surely that will also be a welcomed sound. Chii-miigwech (literally: “great/many thanks”, but also stands in place of “Amen”), G’zhem-mnidoo.
Matthew’s words: This labyrinth was designed by the Programme Director for Five Oaks, Rev. Robin McGauley, and she is also the person who took this photo. Five Oaks is located on the north edge of Six Nations Reserve near Paris Ontario.
Labyrinths are of course quite appropriate at any season of the year, but somehow to me they seem even more delightful when we can at last venture outdoors again free of heavy coats and boots. Nothing to me is more invitingly green than springtime grass, and no fragrance can touch the scent of Mother Earth reawakening.