“[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]. — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The readings can be found here. This week’s reflection comes from David W. Parsons, author of the outstanding blog Elias Icons. (Mr. Parsons’ blog was inspired by Teilhard de Chardin so I feel like he is a kindred spirit). I encourage you to read the entire reflection here but set forth below is an extended excerpt:
“The cross plays a key role in Teilhard’s approach to the Sacred Heart as the symbol of God’s evolutionary design for His creation. . . . Teilhard wants us to see the Sacred Heart in a new way. He wants us to look deep into the image and get beyond what we see. We have to get into the Sacred Heart ‘within’ the image. And furthermore, he believed that by doing this – seeing differently and more intensively – the Sacred Heart could serve to become a symbol which could embody a more forward looking vision of Christianity which would take account of what we now know about the world and the cosmos. It could serve as a way of promoting a Christianity which is open to what science and research can tell us about God’s creation and the place of Christianity in the modern world.
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Teilhard also wants us to penetrate the appearance of THE most important image in the Christian faith : the Cross. It is, of course, primarily, as he admitted, a symbol of atonement and expiation. But the cross means so much more than this, and if Christianity was to be relevant to the modern world it had to explore the deeper meaning of the Cross we see being exalted in the icon.
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What this means is that when we look at the cross we see ‘suffering, dying, freeing’. But we should look again. Look deeper. Look at the cross from a cosmic perspective. We now see Christ as not just bearing the weight of our sin: he is bearing the weight of the pain and suffering that is the consequence of a universe that is evolving. When we see the cross in this way we see the enormity of the truth of the redemptive Cross but it now becomes ‘much more true’. (219) When we see the Cross as a symbol of God who has humbly become flesh to progress and advance OUR evolution and the evolution of the universe itself we better understand the scale and immensity of what the Cross represents. So just as we have to EXPAND our understanding of the Sacred Heart, we have to expand our understanding of the cross.
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We now see the Cross as raised to new and awesome heights: a dynamic and complete symbol of a God who has entered fully and completely into the pain of being a conscious and reflective member of the species homo sapiens. On the cross we see the Word of God made flesh who out of love has penetrated fully and completely human history and evolution.