Spiegel im Spiegel – Mirrors in the Mirrors

CW 325 – Creating Rituals in Community: Tuesdays in Chapel

The Work of Mourning The Earth

Union Theological Seminary in New York City

Fall 2019 – Tuesdays 10 am to 12:50 pm

ROOM 307 + James Chapel  – NOON

Instructor: Dr. Cláudio Carvalhaes

 September 3, 2019 – Arvo Pärt- Spiegel im Spiegel

Participation of musicians Katie Reimer and Yuri Namkung

  • Welcome – Sandra Montes


  • Beginning – Katie Reimer and Yuri Namkung play Spiegel im Spiegel


  • Text – Mirrors in the mirrors – By Cláudio Carvalhaes


This fantastic song composed by Arvo Pärt – Spiegel im Spiegel and phenomenally performed by our brilliant musicians Katie Reimer and Yuri Nambung mean mirrors in the mirrors. A wonderful way to start our semester as we see how deeply interconnected and intertwined we are.


For our breathing mirrors the breath of the earth, which the mirrors the land, that is in the mirrors of dears, that are in the mirrors of caterpillars. that are in the mirrors of elephants, who are in the mirrors of leaves, in the mirrors of whales, in the mirrors of clouds, in the mirrors of cats, in the mirrors of trees, in the mirrors of memories, in the mirrors of songs, in the mirrors of walking and swimming…


in the mirrors of air, in the mirrors of hawks, in the mirrors of aunts, in the mirrors of communities, in the mirrors of thoughts, in the mirrors of joy, in the mirrors of tears, in the mirrors of bread, in the mirrors of rocks, in the mirrors of sand, in the mirrors of castles, in the mirrors of children, in the mirrors of hearts, in the mirrors of dolphins in the mirrors of lightness…


in the mirrors of pain, in the mirrors of widows, in the mirrors of steal, in the mirrors of buildings, in the mirrors of new buildings, in the mirrors of laws, in the mirrors of shapes, in the mirrors of colors, in the mirrors of flowers, in the mirrors of birth, in the mirrors of expansions, in the mirrors of contractions…


in the mirrors of capitalism, in the mirrors of catastrophes, in the mirrors of flights, in the mirrors of eyes, in the mirrors of hands, in the mirrors of silences, in the mirrors of sharks, in the mirrors of fears, in the mirrors of anger, in the mirrors of planktons, in the mirrors of air, in the mirrors of killing, in the mirrors of pollution, in the mirrors of destruction, in the mirrors of desolation, in the mirrors of confusion,


in the mirrors of power, in the mirrors of control, in the mirrors of patriarchy, in the mirrors of demons, in the mirrors of colonization, in the mirrors of racism, in the mirrors of neoliberalism, in the mirrors of lotus flowers, in the mirrors of tastes, in the mirrors of mornings, in the mirrors of Buddhism, in the mirrors of planets, in the mirrors of Islam, in the mirrors of Christianity, in the mirrors of modernity, in the mirrors of darkness, in the mirrors of liturgies, in the mirrors of control, in the mirrors of dreams, in the mirrors of Candomblé, in the mirrors of healing, in the mirrors of detachment, in the mirrors of impermanence, in the mirrors of rivers, in the mirrors of forests…


in the mirrors of extractivism, in the mirrors of greed, in the mirrors of ghosts, in the mirrors of books, in the mirrors of angels, in the mirrors of fear, in the mirrors glory, in the midst of sex, in the mirrors of mountains, in the mirrors of grass, in the mirrors of tigers, in the mirrors of pillows, in the mirrorsr of sadness, in the mirrors of something else, in the mirrors of spirit, in the mirrors of not knowing, in the mirrors of universes, in the mirrors of birds, in the mirrors of songs, in the mirrors of laughter, in the mirrors of toys, in the mirrors of music, in the mirrors of ourselves, in the mirrors of humus, in the mirrors of life together right here with us right now. Which is all we have.


Mirrors in the mirrors, a succession of interrelatedness when life encompasses everything, human and not, and we are in everything and everything is in us. Glory!


But it has been a while since we saw ourselves in deep connectivity and relationality. Humanity has gone astray in thinking that we are the top of the chain and everything else is out there for our usage and our uncontrollable pleasures. We have all become narcissists, able to see only what mirrors ourselves. Everything is about us, thanks be to God!


No! We need to go back to our precious brother Martin Luther King Jr. said who said in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”[1]We are all part of a whole, but this whole has huge differences. Studying, praying, eating and living with one another is often painful, but it is also a place of blessings, where we learn to be a part of a whole as we acknowledge our deepest differences and how we can bless and be blessed.


During this semester, we will try to join this understanding and these forms of mutuality and belonging. Chapel from Monday to Thursday will be one of these privileged places on campus where we will learn with each other about our commonalities and differences. There will always be something here to lift you up but also to annoy you, to shine on you but to get you frustrated. Come! Come as a spiritual practice. Learn to be critical but also to respect those who worship in different ways than you.


Now, every Tuesday, part of our community, namely the class Creating Rituals in Community will create our worship chapel rituals in order to help us, as a community, to deal with the endless scary news of climate change, global warming and the demise of our future. If we pay attention, the scientific community is telling us that the current planetary situation is absolutely devastating. A growing calamity. Right now, from the Amazon to Siberia, Germany to the west coast of Africa and California, forests are burning in massive amounts of land. Every river contaminated, floods, droughts, ocean acidity, vast containment of trash in the ocean, ice caps melting, extractivism as the current form we relate to the earth, using the earth as resources in fast and greedy ways that the earth cannot replenish itself.


Capitalism ruling us all, states dominated by the financial market, producing inequality, poverty, massive species extinctions, 140 million migrants and refugees due to global warming, agri-toxics in so much of what we eat. Life under risk in all possible ways.


We hear all this and we cringe. Our cognition tends to alarm ourselves and shut us down.


On the other hand, there are movements of awareness happening. People are thinking differently and finding possibilities for our lives to continue. Indigenous people everywhere, the ones who are guarding our collective future, are reminding us that we must relate deeply with the earth and protect our common life that comes from Gaia.


As Angela Davis said in an interview here at Riverside Church organized by Union, the earth is the zero-sum of our struggle. Without the earth, there is nothing left. The task is to take care of the earth as our main point of start and from there, connect with every other form of justice.


Our violinist Yuri who is visiting us today playing the violin, just had a baby. Baby Nellie Namkung Street was born on August 5. What is the future for baby Nellie? I have 3 kids, 7, 11 and 13. I feel they will not have a future. And I don’t know what to do with it. What am I going to tell them? Sorry we have destroyed your future?


We must do something. If we act, there will be hope. Hope is not something we wait for, we create it. We cannot shut down and move away. We cannot just close our eyes. We must go into the belly of the beast to find ways to deal with this overwhelming feeling and find ways to change.


There are so many other things to do about it but this is what we want to do on Tuesdays: gather together in our community and be together learning about our connectivity and how to respond to our condition. We will raise awareness of our disastrous times. Every week we will find ways to support each other through the loss of our own common life. We will build collective memories, relations that will help take care of ouselves, each other, animals and the earth. We will try to deal with what Macfarlane called “waste, trauma, poison, secrets,”[2]and propose to “shelter what is precious, to yield what is valuable, and to dispose of what is harmful.”[3]


We will go by trial and error, trying to find ritual forms that will help us move on amidst vulnerability and resistance. We don’t know how we will get there but we will. You are invited to come to chapel every Tuesday to figure out with us how to wrestle with our current disastrous situation.


However, I’d say, come to chapel everyday! A blessing is waiting for you.


Chapel at Union is a gift, a tremendous gift. Come and join us in how we ritualize our lives. To learn to say what the world is but also to say what the world should be. Here we pray, sing, offer prophetic words and pastoral care. Here we hold each other in the same garment of destiny whose arch will bend towards justice. We are each other’s garment. We are each other’s bearers. We must thrive to understand each other, to honor each other and offer loving kindness to each other.


We are all starting a journey. Mirror in the mirror. Me to you, to classrooms, to books, to deadlines, to discussions, to prayers, to singing, to moving together, to become aware of our being different in our connectivity, to laughter, to participation, to healing, to expansion, to passion, to hope to dreams to a new world unfolding right now, right in front of our eyes.


Come! Let us be a blessing to somebody else’s journey.


Come, let us figure out life in the midst of death together.


Come! Take heart! Our selves, our communities and the world are all awaiting for us.



  • Community Song: Woyaya, by Art Garfunkel – Played by Katie and Yuri – Led by Katie.




We are going, heaven knows where we are going,
We’ll know we’re there. 
We will get there, heaven knows how we will get there,
We know we will. 

It will be hard we know
And the road will be muddy and rough,
But we’ll get there, heaven knows how we will get there,
We know we will.

We are going, heaven knows where we are going,
We’ll know we’re there.


  • What do we offer each other during this time? – Led by Cláudio and offered by students.


  • Katie and Yuri play Spiegel im Spiegel


  • Silence


[1]“Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in James M. Washington, A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King Jr.(San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1996), 190.

 [2]Macfarlane, Underland, 8.

[3]Macfarlane, Underland, 8.

[4]See Blessingway as told by River Junction Curly in Leland C. Wyman’s Blessingway, translated from Navajo by Father Berard Haile, O.F.M (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1970), 613.