Walking Around the Truth of Sacred Things

Walking Around the Truth of Sacred Things

At saint benedict’s table the sermon regularly starts with the invocation, “May only truth be spoken, and only truth received.” This attitude towards our shared meditations makes even more sense to me since I took a course called ‘Themes in Theology: Indigenous Wisdom’ at the University of Winnipeg. The Rt. Reverend Mark MacDonald[1] led a week of intensive and often intense conversation among twenty people: Indigenous, Métis, non-indigenous and African; ordained clergy, ceremonial/spiritual healing practitioners, ministry candidates, graduate students, and just plain seekers.

Among the many things I carry from the course is the fact that some indigenous languages (e.g. Ojibwe) have features that are “used mostly in traditional stories or stories set in the remote past” by which a speaker “expresses some doubt about the event.”[2] Doubt, however, does not only express uncertainty or skepticism. As I understand it, this way of speaking and knowing has a kind of circumspection built right in. When used to talk about the truth of great or sacred things (e.g. through stories about creation), such circumspection opens up to belief and hope, even as it shows that human knowledge about anything is inevitably partial. Great things can be known and honoured deeply, all the while acknowledging with humility the non-possession of the ‘whole truth’ by anyone.

Bishop Mark modeled this non-possession of the ‘whole truth’ by placing in the center of our circle the teachings and worldviews of Indigenous and Judeo-Christian elders and traditions. In this way, the truth of great things could be seen in multiple directions. Multi-directional thinking as walking-around-the-truth-of-great-things acknowledges our ‘journey,’ ‘path’ and ‘way,’ as we learn to be what we have been created to be in relationship to everything that is. A Medicine Wheel also represents this ‘everything’ of creation in a circular pattern of fours: seasons, aspects of a person, elements, and medicines. Thus we encounter teachings about our interdependent relationships, dynamism in our faith and life, and the wholeness desirable in all things.

To invoke that “only truth be spoken, and only truth received” seems to me fitting for people of the way, and the living word, and of the land – the land that is the meeting place between matter and the Spirit of the all-present creator God.

Jon Sears teaches at Menno Simons College, lives in the Daniel MacIntyre neighbourhood with his wife, and shares church time between saint benedict’s table and Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship.


[1] National Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada

[2] Artuso, C. 1998: 22. noogom gna-izlzi-anisltinaabemonaaniwag: Generational Differences in Algonquin. Masters Thesis. Department of Linguistics, University of Manitoba. Winnipeg. National Library of Canada Collections http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk2/tape15/PQDD_0007/MQ32047.pdf

 

Feature image courtesy of Urban and Inner-City Studies,University of Winnipeg, North End Campus, 519 Selkirk Avenue.

3 Responses to Walking Around the Truth of Sacred Things

  1. Sears Jm says:

    A correction: 527 Selkirk Avenue. is the address for Urban and Inner-City Studies, University of Winnipeg, North End Campus. Follow the link above.

  2. Aisha entz says:

    Well said Jon! I very much appreciated this!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I like how you’ve framed this, Jon. For other readers, if this has caught your attention you can hear Jon’s session in our ideaExchange series at http://stbenedictstable.ca/podcast/truth-reconciliation-ideaexchange/

    Jamie

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