A harmony that may restore all as one

Thursday, March 9, 2017 6:06 PM

In the church where I serve we end our Sunday services repeating four times “Hozho na has dlii.”

Over a year ago, one of our congregation, a Navajo woman, introduced us to this phrase and the concepts behind it. (Before, we had followed our denomination’s traditional “Alleluia.”)

We recognize that, as a predominantly Anglo congregation, we are borrowing from another culture, and we are grateful to our Native friends for helping us broaden our practices and our world view. We apologize to them for butchering their language each Sunday, and are grateful they understand our intent is to learn from them.

“Hozho na has dlii” is a deep concept. It has been explained to me as “harmony that was broken has now been restored.” It is a concept that is grounded in an awareness that all is one, and that we humans exist within and as part of the natural order.

By the end of each Sunday service, the congregation and I have spent an hour “being” together – listening, singing, eating, praying and sitting in silence. To the extent that we have given ourselves to these practices, we have let go of our perceived separation and have reconnected with “hozho” – the natural order and oneness that is the rightful dwelling place of all creation.

While the tradition of “hozho na has dlii” is from the Diné, the awareness that underlies it is not unique to their culture. It is found in the mystical branches of all major religions.

The need to “be against” and the violence that we see flowing out of it these days are nothing new. While they may (or may not) be inherent to our species, they certainly come easily to us. Personal spirituality that finds expression in the individual’s life and is for the individual – is on the rise in our culture. As a person affiliated with a community of faith, I wish I could say that coming together in our spirituality might be an antidote to polarization and violence. Sadly, I cannot make that claim.

It is the content of that coming together that matters, in the same way as it is with a more private spirituality. We white Christians might find we would follow Jesus more faithfully if we were to leave our congregations for a while and walk in harmony with the Earth and her nonhuman creatures. If we could develop a deeper sense of our place in the created order, as sisters and brothers to the lizards and the grasses, to the mountains and the rivers, to the ravens and the big cats, maybe we would do better when we come together with fellow humans.

The stories we tell ourselves matter. They form our reality. While it motivates us to action, a story of individualism positions us in a stance from which we may see ourselves as superior and more deserving. And when our story becomes that we are more deserving, domination with the violence that supports it can easily follow.

Whether we learn of “hozho” from our Native friends or we embrace it from within our own tradition, or we simply walk lightly on the Earth and let her teach us, the harmony and peace that we long for can be ours.

Leigh Waggoner is priest at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. Reach her at 565-7865, or