Deep Resurrection: The Martyrdom and Resurrection of Creation in Our Day

William Ockham:

Another good reflection in the spirit of Teilhard de Chardin during the Easter Octave, this time from Christine McCarthy of Daily Theology:

“This person, Jesus of Nazareth, was composed of star stuff and earth stuff; his life formed a genuine part of the historical and biological community of Earth; his body existed in a network of relationships drawing from and extending to the whole physical universe. If in death this ‘piece of this world, real to the core,’ as [Karl] Rahner phrases it, surrendered his life in love and is now forever with God in glory, then this signals embryonically the final beginning of redemptive glorification not just for other human beings but for all flesh, all material beings, every creature that passes through death. The evolving world of life, all of matter in its endless permutations, will not be left behind but will likewise be transfigured by the resurrecting action of the Creator Spirit. The tomb’s emptiness signals this cosmic realism. The same early Christian human that recognizes Christ as ‘firstborn of the dead’ also names him ‘the firstborn of all creation’ (Col. 1.15).”

Originally posted on Daily Theology:

By Christine McCarthy

The Long View of History: From Eternity to the History of Time

Photgraph by Justin Ng, Your Shot

Photgraph by Justin Ng, Your Shot

Fox’s reboot of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is an experience not to be missed. Its vivid photography and animation set to an elegant scientific narration sublimely invites the general public into a state of wonder at the cosmos and gratitude for our own rare, brief, and precious existence.  There are few moments as powerful as when Tyson paraphrases Carl Sagan’s famous explanation to the Cosmos’ audience that, “the nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars.  We are made of star stuff.”  The beauty and power of this knowledge are decentralizing: we are moved out of a moment-to-moment, day-to-day tunnel vision to contemplate…

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Redemption for the Natural World

William Ockham:

Happy Earth Day!

Originally posted on God In All Things:

pelican eggs If Easter is about the redemption of humankind, what about the rest of the created world? Elizabeth Johnson, in her new book Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love, gives a theological voice to the plants and animals. What role does God play in the natural world? With extinction happening at an enormous rate it’s worth pondering. Johnson gives one example of the pelican.

A mother pelican typically lays two eggs. The one that hatches first is given the attention. It’s fed and cared for by the parents. The second chick to hatch is usually ignored, starves, and dies. For pelicans, if you’re the second to hatch, you have a 90% chance of dying; you were mainly there as insurance in case the first chick died. This is how nature works for the pelican family. So we must ask, where is God in this?

Johnson points to…

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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (April 21, 2014): The Parousia and the Omega Point

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“Christian faith . . . by the very fact that it is rooted in the idea of the Incarnation, has always based a large part of its tenants on the tangible values of the World and of Matter . . . [This connection is so intimately] linked with the essence of Christian dogma that, like a living bud, it needed only a sign, a ray of light, to cause it to break into flower. To clarify our ideas let us consider a single case, one which sums of everything. We continue from force of habit to think of the Parousia, whereby the Kingdom of God is to be consummated on Earth, as an event of a purely catastrophic nature — that is to say, liable to come about at any moment in history, irrespective of any definitive state of Mankind. This is one way of looking at the matter. But why should we not assume, in accordance with the latest scientific view of Mankind in an actual state of anthropogenesis, that the parousiac spark can, of a physical and organic necessity, only be kindled between Heaven and a Mankind which as biologically reached a certain critical evolutionary point of collective maturity?” — Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, pp. 266-267.

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Does the Beauty of the Gospel Story Attest to Its Truth?

William Ockham:

The original blog includes this quote from Alistair McGrath’s biography of C.S. Lewis which summarizes correspondence between C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien:

Tolkien argued that Lewis ought to approach the New Testament with the same sense of imaginative openness and expectation that he brought to the reading of pagan myths in his professional studies. But, as Tolkien emphasized, there was a decisive difference. As Lewis expressed in his second letter to Greeves, ‘The story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.

The reader must appreciate that the word myth is not being used here in the loose sense of a ‘fairy tale’ or the pejorative sense of a ‘deliberate lie told in order to deceive.’… For Tolkien, a myth is a story that conveys ‘fundamental things’—in other words, that tries to tell us about the deeper structure of things. The best myths, he argues, are not deliberately constructed falsehoods, but are rather tales woven by people to capture the echoes of deeper truths. They are like splintered fragments of the true light…

Originally posted on The Bully Pulpit:

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

Does the aesthetic splendor of the four Gospels, when considered like works of literature, emit the ineffable whiff of something genuine? Is there a patina of truth — truth endorsed by beauty — coating the Biblical account of the Nazarene? Cahill explained the concept; Einstein flirted with the idea; C.S. Lewis, through his buddy Tolkien, was converted by it; and Julian Barnes paid it some provocative thoughts. You can decide for yourself.

From the pen of Thomas Cahill, writing in his even-handed historical survey The Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus:

What especially makes the gospels — from a literary point of view — works like no others is that they are about a good human being. As every writer knows, such a creature is all but impossible to capture on the page, and there are exceedingly few figures in all literature who are both good and memorable…

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Sunday Reflection for Easter Sunday (April 20, 2014): It’s Not About the Bunnies

easter

This weekend we continue the Triduum Celebration and reach the climax of the Church year with the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday. The readings can be found here and here.

Today’s reflection comes from James Martin, S.J., the Chaplain of the Colbert Report. The article below was originally published in the Washington Post in 2011, but I can no longer find an on-line copy to link to. I apologize if I violate any copyright laws by posting the full article but I promise to give 100% of the royalties from this post to the Washington Post or James Martin or whoever owns the copyright :-)

“Easter Sunday: It’s not about the bunnies”
By Fr. James Martin S.J.

It’s not about bunnies. It’s not about coloring eggs. It’s not about chocolate. It’s not about flowers. It’s not even about spring or signs of “new life” in nature after a long winter. So what is Easter about?

It’s about something almost terrifyingly serious: Jesus rose from the dead.

That’s one reason why Easter hasn’t been completely subsumed by the consumer culture. (Though department stores and cheesy movies like “Hop” try their best to do so.) Christmas, which can be cast as the cozy story of Mary and Joseph and their little baby Jesus surrounded by cuddly animals in a manger, is easily domesticated. Easily tamed. More easily sold to the masses.

Easter, on the other hand, is untameable. The man whose followers imagined him to be the Messiah, the one who would forcefully, even violently, deliver them from the hands of their oppressors (For isn’t that what the Baptist said?) was tried, beaten and executed like a common thug. What’s more, after the crucifixion the Gospels portray the disciples not as stalwart stewards of their master’s legacy, but as abject cowards, cowering behind locked doors for fear of someone trying to arrest them.

Then on Easter Sunday everything changes. It changes so much that it’s hard for them to take it in. In one of his first of Jesus’s many “appearances,” one of the women doesn’t even recognize him. Several disciples refuse to believe the story—one until he actually touches the man. But Christians believe, and I believe, that it’s true: Christ has risen from the dead.

Sounds strange said so bluntly, doesn’t it? But the resurrection is the heart of the Christian message. If you don’t believe it, then you’re not Christian. Not really, as St. Paul would say elsewhere: “If Christ is not raised, your faith is in vain.”

About that new life: it is in fact “new.” Christ is not simply “resuscitated,” that is, brought back from the dead with the understanding that he’ll die some time in the future. No, he lives “forever and ever,” as the Bible (and Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus) say. It’s a completely new kind of life. And a completely new kind of reality.

That may be one reason why the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s appearances after his resurrection are so confusing. As I said, in one passage he is mistaken for the gardener. But for the disciples he was the most important man in their lives: How could they not recognize him? In another account, he seems like a ghost—for he seems to pass through doors and suddenly appears before the disciples. And in another passage he is clearly physical. “Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones,” Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke. What’s going on?

To my mind, the confusing accounts point out impossibility of describing what the disciples were seeing. What was it like? Well, he was like a ghost…but not really. He was flesh and blood…but something else. No one had ever seen anything remotely like this; no words could encompass the reality of what theologians call the “glorified body.” So everything changes on Easter. And what Jesus said during his earthly ministry (love one another, pray for your enemies, give to the poor) now takes on added meaning for the disciples. 

Easter is not about bunnies or chocolate or eggs. It is an event that makes a claim on you. Either you believe that Jesus did not rise from the dead (or his body was stolen, or the Gospels are made up, or the disciples simply “remembered” him and passed on his message). Or you believe he was raised from the dead. In which case everything changes for you, too.” (emphasis added)

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Good Friday Reflections on Mother Teresa, Suffering, Blood Sacrifice and Kenosis

Mother_teresa5

As we continue the reflection and celebration on the Easter Triduum, I would like to include several reflections from my favorite resources.

First, is from David Backes, Professor, Deacon, author and owner of the outstanding blog New Wood.  Set forth below is an excerpt of Professor Backes’ reflection for this week but I encourage you to check out his blog here as it also includes wonderful statements from Paul’s Letter to the Romans and The Way of the Cross by St. Teresa of Avila.

The wood of the cross symbolizes, among other things, our destruction of nature in our quest for power, domination, and material status. A tree, torn down, and used for purposes of death rather than life. Nature carries the cross of suffering, and shares in the hope of transformation. The wood of the cross shows both aspects of this: the wood of suffering becomes the throne of glory, and it also stands as an invitation.  Christ invites us to follow the same holy way of fulfillment by making the cross part of our very identity, which means identifying with the poor, the lonely, and all those who suffer, human and otherwise. The cross is the safest way to the true heart of Christ, and therefore the safest way to ultimate fulfillment.

The second reflection, also from David Backes, is from a Homily Professor Backes gave three years ago on Good Friday talking about Mother Teresa and the cry of “I Thirst” by Jesus on the Cross. The full homily can be found here, but set forth below is an excerpt:

“What Mother Teresa experienced that day on the train was our Lord’s incredible thirst. Yes, he thirsts for justice, for all those who are marginalized, for the lonely, the suffering, for those who cry out to Him with their own thirst for hope and love. Mother Teresa experienced the depths of this thirst, and that alone would have been enough to change her life. But underlying all that is an even deeper thirst, and she experienced this, too. There, on the cross, Jesus looks at every single one of us, calls our name, and says, “I thirst.”

He thirsts for each one of us, and we are the only ones who can quench that part of his thirst. Jesus showed Mother Teresa a scene of a large crowd, covered in darkness. It was a sea of anguish, and in the midst of it was Jesus, on the cross. The only light shone down from above onto the cross, and from the cross itself. The people were unaware that Jesus was right there with them, not only sharing in their suffering but turning it into seeds of resurrection.”

Kenosis

Finally, is an excerpt from the Living Space reflection by the Irish Jesuits.  The reflection talks about four points, including the significance of the tearing of the Temple veil in two upon Jesus’ death (the division between God and humanity is eliminated), the history and meaning of blood sacrifice and the transformative psychological impact of the Cross as described by St. Paul. You can find the full reflection here, but set forth below is an excerpt:

“For so many centuries people have been spilling blood to get to God. But in the crucifixion it is reversed - God spills his own blood to reach out to us. This is to take away our old fear, that by spilling blood we try to appease an angry God. There is no such thing as an angry God – only an unconditionally loving God.

Paul tells us that Jesus emptied himself. He emptied himself of all egoism, of all anger, fear and anxiety, of all human dignity in the sight of others. He let go of everything and because he did so, he was fully taken up in union with his Father. For us it has to be the same. Our lives are so tied up with all kinds of concerns, desires, ambitions, fears and anxieties. We need to remove these blocks and just let go.

To break down the barriers separating us from total union with the Source and Goal of all being. The Way is shown clearly in the Gospel and most of all in the Way of the Cross– leading to resurrection, new life and ascension, union with God in Christ. Paul was very close to it when he said: “I live, no not I, but Christ lives in me.” (emphasis in original)

Sources:

New Wood Blog
Living Space

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Teilhard de Chardin and the Cross as Symbol for Purification of Being

 

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[O]n the panoramic screen of an evolutive world which we have just erected, the whole picture undergoes a most impressive change. When the Cross is projected upon such a universe, in which struggle against evil is the sine qua non of existence, it takes on new importance and beauty—such, moreover, as are just the most capable of appealing to us. Christ, it is true, is still he who bears the sins of the world; moral evil is in some mysterious way paid for by suffering. But, even more essentially, Christ is he who structurally in himself, and for all of us, overcomes the resistance to unification offered by the multiple, resistance to the rise of spirit inherent in matter. Christ is he who bears the burden, constructionally inevitable, of every sort of creation. He is the symbol and the sign-in-action of progress. The complete and definitive meaning of redemption is no longer only to expiate: it is to surmount and conquer. The full mystery of baptism is no longer to cleanse but (as the Greek Fathers fully realized) to plunge into the fire of the purifying battle ‘for being’—no longer the shadow, but the sweat and toil, of the Cross.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (2002-11-18). Christianity and Evolution (Harvest Book, Hb 276) (Kindle Locations 1078-1086). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

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