Teilhard de Chardin on The Cross as Symbol of Future Union of Humanity


“[I]n spite of the profound readjustments that are being made in our phenomenal vision of the world, the Cross still stands; it rears itself up ever more erect at the common meeting place of all values and all problems, deep in the heart of mankind. It marks and must continue more than ever to mark the division between what rises and what falls back. But this is on one condition, and one only: that it expand itself to the dimensions of [today], and cease to present itself to us as primarily (or even exclusively) the sign of a victory over sin—and so finally attain its fullness, which is to become the dynamic and complete symbol of a universe in a state of personalizing evolution.”

* * * 

In view of the present confusion, it should be made plain that ‘to bear the weight of a world in evolution’ does not minimize the role of sacrifice, but adds to the pain of expiation the more constant and demanding pain of sharing, with full consciousness of man’s destiny, in the universal labor which is indispensable to its accomplishment. Seen in this light, there is even greater force in Christ’s summons: ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’ (Luke 9:23).”

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (2002-11-18). Christianity and Evolution (Harvest Book, Hb 276) (Kindle Locations 2914-2919, 2622-2625). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (April 14, 2014): Easter Sunday


“O God, if in my life I have not been wrong, allow me to die on Easter Sunday”.

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin died of a heart attack on April 10, 1955: Easter Sunday

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Consciousness, the rose and the fire

Originally posted on gigglinginthegutter:

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one

TS Eliot

Any static theory of consciousness feels incomplete. Reality is much closer to a process than a material. Whitehead’s “Process and Reality”, is impenetrable, but so much is clear. Consciousness, our awareness of self and the universe, is transitory, fleeting for most of us. This is to be expected if reality is the intersection of process and the material. It takes intense meditation and study to be able to hold oneself within the stream of the process that is reality as it pours through us. (I am told).

To quote Max Tegmark (New Scientist “Solid, Liquid, Consciousness”) “consciousness is a process that can occur in certain physical systems”. Whilst he invents new language (consciousness is for instance renamed as perceptronium) –…

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Sunday Reflection, Palm Sunday (April 13, 2014): A Literary Journey Through Matthew’s Passion



Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. — Phil 2:6-8

This weekend is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.  The readings can be found here.

This week’s reflection is from James Predmore, S.J. who does an excellent job of highlighting some of the details from Passion narrative found in Matthew, which was written for a Jewish audience. You can find the full reflection and other resources here, but set forth below is an extended excerpt:

“Year after year we hear the Passion of the Lord proclaimed to us on Palm Sunday and again on Good Friday. The story is worth hearing repeatedly because we hear a different detail each time. It is good to pay attention to the small details because something larger is communicated. In this cycle, we get Matthew’s version of the Passion and he has included finer details than Mark’s original story. His Jewish-Christian audience want to hear of the cosmic details Matthew inserts, like the earthquakes, the angels, and the Temple’s torn veil. Dramatic events punctuate Matthew’s story to signify God’s involvement.

The story opens with Judas’ agreement to betray Jesus, which is set up in contrast to the woman’s loyal love at Bethany when she excessively anointed the feet of Jesus. Jesus is in charge of the details in Matthew’s story and the loyal disciples obediently follow his command. The meal as a whole is presented as a reinterpreted Passover supper. He stresses the covenant that links all of salvation history to this moment. In the Garden of Gethsemane, God has tested his Son to see what was in his heart. Matthew’s climax in the story is the arrest of Jesus for it is the hour of his tragic destiny. The Pharisees, who were a constant source of irritation for Jesus, are exonerated from his death. The temple authorities and the Romans bear the responsibility. At the arrest, a disciples cuts off the earlobe of the high priest’s servant. This was not a casual incident, but highly symbolic. The servant was a high ranking official and was the representative of the high priest. A mutilated ear disqualifies one in Jewish law from serving as high priest. Thus the one who arrested Jesus, God’s emissary, was spiritually bankrupt and unfit for office. Jesus is then brought before the Sanhedrin.

Peter is last mentioned in Matthew at the point of his betrayal. The death of Judas is fulfilled by linking him with the historical “field of blood.” It is the last of the fulfillment citations. Jesus appears before Pilate in a formal juridical Roman trial and he halfway confirms Pilate’s question, but if no one brings a specific charge, no trial can be conducted. In the customary amnesty, a prisoner at Passover is released. Barsabbas (son of the father) is released as a contrast to Jesus. A contrast is set up between Pilate’s claim to be innocent and the priests, lay elders, and crowds claim to be responsible for his death, but Pilate remains ultimately responsible by handing him over to the cross.

The soldiers mock Jesus as king as a gesture of momentary moral chaos associated with Roman Saturnalia festivals. Jesus goes to his death with a humiliating, inglorious excruciating death as he is derided by passers-by, the authorities, and robbers. His death is bitter, not mythic. Even the devil is brought in to deride Jesus. “If you are the Son of God,” elevates the theological level of the derision. At his death, Jesus feels abandoned, not despair. For Matthew, Jesus voluntarily went to his death, however ignoble. The burial of Jesus is dignified to underline the reality of death and guards are placed around the tomb to secure it by the legitimate, responsible authorities.

I suggest that you reflect upon the way you will listen to the story proclaimed this week. There’s a lot in the story so I further suggest that you give voice to your emotions as you hear it proclaimed. If you still have energy, pay great attention to the emotions of Jesus. When we do that, we naturally want to console him. This is a good instinct. Just be present to him as he relives his last moments on earth. Comfort him if you can.”


James Predmore Site
Creighton Online Ministries

Living Space
Friar Musings Blog
Prepare for Mass

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The Limits of Science in Understanding Mystical Experiences



Impact of meditation on the brain: very interesting, but not the whole story.

Impact of  prayer and meditation on the brain: very interesting, but not the whole story.

In recent years, there has been a lot of scientific studies showing a positive correlation between prayer and meditation a person’s mental and psychological well-being.  While this correlation has been known for thousands of years, advanced scientific techniques such as functional MRI have allowed people to see how the brain can change during prayer and meditation.

Some scientists attribute these changes in brain states to merely physical causes, including the experiences of mysticism that sometimes occur during meditation or in other contexts. For example, in last Sunday’s New York Times, Barbara Ehrenreich describes her own mystical experience and explores the possibility that someday science alone will be able to explain it.  Ross Douthaut recently had an outstanding reply to Ms. Ehrenreich that identifies the limits of what science can tell us about metaphysics:

 “[E]ven in contexts where it’s very easy to identify the physical correlative to a given mental state, and to get the kind of basic repeatability that the scientific method requires — show someone an apple, ask them to describe it; tell them to bite into it, ask them to describe the taste; etc. — there is no kind of scientific or philosophical agreement on what is actually happening to produce the conscious experience of the color “red,” the conscious experience of the crisp McIntosh taste, etc. So if we can’t say how this  ”normal” conscious experience works, even when we can easily identify the physical stimulii that produce it, it seems exponentially harder to scientifically investigate the invisible, maybe-they-exist and maybe-they-don’t stimulii — be they divine, alien, or panpsychic — that Ehrenreich hypothesizes might produce more exotic forms of conscious experience.”

Mr. Douthat goes on to describe the current interest in neuroscience as an opportunity to reawaken the symbiotic relationship between physical sciences and the wisdom that philosophy and theology can provide:

“So by all means, neuroscientists should seek to understand mystical experiences, as they should seek to understand every other sort of experience … but absent a revolutionary breakthrough in the science of consciousness, for the foreseeable future the best way to actually penetrate any distance into mystical phenomena  will probably continue to be the twofold path of direct investigation and secondhand encounter. By direct investigation, of course, I mean personal prayer and meditation, which is the major path to knowledge if the major religious traditions are right about what’s going on here, and probably a useful path to some sort of knowledge even if they’re not.

* * *

In the case of the numinous, this means reading actual mystics and religious texts, reading novelists and poets and essayists who take up these experiences and themes, exploring theology and philosophy, delving into the sociology and anthropology and psychology of religious experience, and so on. And it feels like an unfortunate symptom of our era’s scientism that when a writer like Ehrenreich, who has just made her own contribution to this literature and who’s clearly comfortable on both sides of the “two cultures” divide, wants to urge people to pay more intellectually-serious attention to the numinous, she (almost automatically, it seems) takes off her her humanist/essayist hat and puts her hopes in a “bold” new neuroscience — instead of calling for a renewed highbrow interest, in, say, comparative religion, or a 21st century answer to “The Varieties of Religious Experience” or “The Golden Bough.”

If our understanding of the mystical is impoverished today, perhaps it’s because we’ve put too much faith in brain scans, and allowed other forms of knowledge and investigation to ebb. Perhaps what we need is a revival of philosophically-informed psychology and anthropology, rather than a more ambitious spiritual phrenology. Perhaps, instead of a better fMRI machine, we’re waiting for a new (and doubtless very different) William James or James Frazer or Carl Jung.” (emphasis added)

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Reflections on the Anniversary of Death of Teilhard de Chardin




Today is the 59th anniversary of the death of Teilhard de Chardin. I hope to attend Mass today and prepare as we head towards Palm Sunday. However, I was also delighted to learn that the Lectionary for the Episcopal Church has special prayers and readings in honor of Teilhard de Chardin:

The Collect:

Eternal God, the whole cosmos sings of your glory, from the dividing of a single cell to the vast expanse of interstellar space: We bless you for your theologian and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who perceived the divine in the evolving creation. Enable us to become faithful stewards of your divine works and heirs of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all creation, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Old Testament:  Isaiah 55:6-11

Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their way, and sinners their thoughts; Let them turn to the LORD to find mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Yet just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down And do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, Giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it.

Psalm: Psalm 65

For the leader. A psalm of David. A song. To you we owe our hymn of praise, O God on Zion; To you our vows must be fulfilled, you who hear our prayers. To you all flesh must come with its burden of wicked deeds. We are overcome by our sins; only you can pardon them. Blessed the one whom you will choose and bring to dwell in your courts. May we be filled with the good things of your house, your holy temple!

You answer us with awesome deeds of justice, O God our savior, The hope of all the ends of the earth and of those far off across the sea. You are robed in power, you set up the mountains by your might.

You still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples. Distant peoples stand in awe of your marvels; the places of morning and evening you make resound with joy.

You visit the earth and water it, make it abundantly fertile. God’s stream is filled with water; you supply their grain. Thus do you prepare it: you drench its plowed furrows, and level its ridges.

With showers you keep it soft, blessing its young sprouts. You adorn the year with your bounty; your paths drip with fruitful rain. The meadows of the wilderness also drip; the hills are robed with joy. The pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys blanketed with grain; they cheer and sing for joy.

Second Reading: Revelation 21:1-6

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.”

The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me, “They are accomplished. I [am] the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water.

Gospel: John 3:31-35

The one who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven [is above all]. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy. For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift*of the Spirit. The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.

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QUOTE (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) – April 9

Originally posted on A DEVOTED LIFE:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1932)

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. ‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared’ (Luther).”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”…

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