Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (January 5, 2015): The Embryonic Idea of the Omega Point

Big Bang Omega Point

 

“In spite of the continual turmoil I’ve been in for the last month, I can see that various ideas are quietly continuing to work themselves out in my mind,—both about the nature of ‘the human virtues’ and the ‘ human moral ideal ‘, which seems  to be the preserve of the stoics and of those who close their hearts to all personal hopes of heaven,—or about the sort of divineness of the future,—the future that is made up of terrifying inevitability, of no less frightening renewal, and at the same time of benign Providence that can make itself manifest and modify itself in proportion to the intensity of our faith. In this latter group of ideas particularly (the future) there are, I think, many things to be said and discovered, which can help us to reveal to ourselves the deep-seated centre of our emotions and fears, and which have the power, in consequence, of revealing God to us. I’ll tell you about this as my thought takes final shape.”

–– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind; Letters from a Soldier-Priest (p. 227-28)

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Sunday Reflection on Epiphany (January 4, 2015): A Real Truth That May or May Not Have Been Historical

A powerful truth, which may or may not have been a historical event.

A powerful truth, which may or may not have been a historical event.

[Note: This is a slightly modified version of the reflection I posted last year]

This weekend is the celebration of the Epiphany. The readings can be found here.

The journey of the Magi is one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible.  Mysterious foreigners receive a cosmic sign to leave their home and pay homage to the newborn son of God.  The imagery describes the mystery of the cosmos and the message that Christ has come for all people.  It is a fitting end to the “twelve days of Christmas”. In the Eastern Orthodox Church the Epiphany is a bigger celebration than the Feast of the Nativity on December 25.

A few years ago the American Atheists spent money on a billboard with the tagline “You Know It’s a Myth” with the picture of the wise men traveling to visit the infant Jesus. I found this very odd on a number levels. I believe the point they were trying to make is that if the story of the Magi found in Chapter 2 of Matthew is not a historical event, then it is not “true”. In that sense American Atheists are showing their epistemological kinship with Christian fundamentalists in that both groups believe in biblical literalism.

Catholics believe the Word of God is much richer than the literalists do.  Catholic teaching states that the Bible conveys eternal truths through a variety of literary genres.  These truths can be in the form of describing historical events (such as the Resurrection) or theological reflections (such as many of the parables that Jesus told).

Although the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke may contain historical elements, these stories are primarily designed to be theological reflections on the meaning of the Incarnation. As preeminent Catholic biblical scholar Raymond Brown says:

“[T]here is no way we can know for certain how historical many details in the infancy narratives are; or where Matthew and Luke obtained their divergent information. In making judgments we should be careful to avoid both naive fundamentalism and destructive skepticism. To take every word of these accounts as literal history does not deal realistically with the problems. Yet the accounts should not be dismissed as mere fiction or myths. Between precise history and purely imaginative creation there is a whole range of ways to convey a religious message.”

Pope Benedict addresses the same issue in his outstanding book Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives.  Pope Benedict, while stating his belief is the substantial historicity of the infancy narratives, emphasizes that the focus on the historicity of the infancy narratives misses the point. Indeed he does not even get to the question of historicity until the end of his beautiful discussion on the theology of the Magi:

At the end of this lengthy chapter, the question arises: how are we to understand all this? Are we dealing with history that actually took place, or is it . . . a theological meditation, presented under the guise of stories? In this regard, Jean Daniélou rightly observes: “The adoration of the Magi, unlike the story of the annunciation [to Mary], does not touch upon any essential aspect of our faith. No foundations would be shaken if it were simply an invention of Matthew’s based on a theological idea” (The Infancy Narratives, p. 95).

Pope Benedict XVI (2012-11-21). Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (p. 118). The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Pope Benedict describes the primary message of the Magi in powerfully cosmic terms that echo the thoughts of Teilhard de Chardin:

“If these wise men, led by the star to search for the king of the Jews, represent the movement of the Gentiles toward Christ, this implies that the cosmos speaks of Christ, even though its language is not yet fully intelligible to man in his present state. The language of creation provides a great many pointers. It gives man an intuition of the Creator. Moreover, it arouses the expectation, indeed the hope, that this God will one day reveal himself. And at the same time it elicits an awareness that man can and should approach him. But the knowledge that emerges from creation, and acquires concrete form in the religions, can also become disoriented, so that it no longer prompts man to transcend himself, but induces him to lock himself into systems with which he believes he can, in some way, oppose the hidden powers of the world.”

Pope Benedict XVI (2012-11-21). Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (Kindle Locations 1165-1170). The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

This theme of Pope Benedict is expanded upon by the Lutheran minister Rev. Dawn Hutchings of Holy Cross Lutheran Church north of Toronto Canada.  I encourage you to read the full homily here but set forth below is an extended excerpt:

“This wonderful tale of three astrologers scouring the heavens for signs of new happenings on the planet captures the imagination of every generation. You see, we humans are meaning-making creatures eternally searching for the Mystery at the heart of the universe that dignifies and enchants our lives. Human beings just can’t help trying to understanding the meaning of it all. We are constantly trying to understand the how and the why of existence.

But alas the indignity of our modern times lies precisely in our being told that the cosmos—this universe in which we live and move and have our being—is essentially purposeless, without meaning or direction.

There’s this thing that some people call Scientism afoot that threatens our ability to see beyond our noses. Scientism is the religion of those scientists who refuse to concede that the phrase, “I don’t know” is sometimes the only answer that we have. Scientism is science that slips into an ideology of materialism—an ideology of materialism is the idea that every thing and every body is nothing more than the random collision of atoms and molecules. Scientism is the assertion that we and the universe are nothing more than  a cosmic fluke of enormous proportions going nowhere in particular. According to the dictates of scientism: any meaning that we might attribute to our existence is therefore just that—our own arbitrarily generated attributions of purpose to a journey to what is at the end of the day nothing more than the purposeless march of time. Unlike science, that provides for the possibility of a creator, scientism would have us believe, that there is no meaning behind our existence, we simply randomly evolved and we will someday randomly devolve, or dissolve into a pile of dust. 

That’s why I love the parable of the magi’s visit! For these ancient astrologers had their own ways of determining meaning,“the heavens are telling the glory of God, and the earth proclaims God’s handiwork”. A new star appears in the heavens and for those with enchanted hearts, it means that God is on the move—something new is about to happen.  So they chased down the star, to see this thing that God had done.

Unlike our ancestors, we live in a culture in desperate need of enchantment and awe. We are so meaning-starved as citizens of the Western world in the 21st century that we chase after almost any kind of novel spiritual movement. The pendulum swings from scientific materialism to the latest cult so starved are we for spiritual re-enchantment. In our state of spiritual hunger we’ll accept any morsel from the smorgasbord of new age spirituality.

* * *  

The sages of our age, the astronomers who seek meaning from the skies are not all so quick to subscribe to the big bang theory of randomness. For they have seen great things in the sky and there are many among this wise folks who insist that the cosmos is infused with meaning and purpose—Indeed, they tell us that  stars and the planetary bodies participate in this journey of cosmic meaning.

Those sages who are engaged in scientific study are not all followers of scientism. The notion of a creator, a first cause, or a driving force, dare we say God, as the power that drives all of existence is seriously explored by the wise folks of academia and science has refused to exclude the possibility. And yet there is the illusion afoot that the followers of science find faith incompatible with the pursuit of meaning. When the truth is that scientism seems to be the choice of those who have given up or forsaken the pursuit of meaning. Science itself would seem to deny scientism!

More and more, scientists, are beginning to speak out and more and more academics are joining the chorus of those who insist that there is indeed a power at work in the large-scale structures of the universe, in the evolutionary unfolding of the planet, and in our own personal and collective lives. To pursue knowledge is to continue the journey of the magi who pursued light, the timeless symbol of knowledge. To follow the light, to go where wisdom and knowledge lead, is to seek the answer to the age old questions: Where do we come from and where are we going?  Why are we here?. You don’t need to be a scientist or an academic to ponder the secrets of existence. Like the magi, we too can seek the light. Just as the magi gazed up at the light in the heavens and followed it to the place where it lead—and found the Christ-child—we too can follow the light in our own lives.

* * * 

The theory of allurement isn’t confined to astronomy, it dips into to theology and from the priest come palaeontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, it borrows the notion of the Omega Point. The Omega Point is the completion and perfection of all creation to which we are being drawn, no-coercively, gently, and in a way that respects our freedom.

How do we find our way to the Omega Point?  Well that’s the real beauty of this theory, you see it’s described as a completely natural process that kicks in the moment we decide to trust this Power—this power that goes by many names, you and I are bold enough to call this power God, some call it Wisdom, but there are other names.

The point of the Omega Point, is that all we must do is to follow the way of the Magi and look for the light. Physicists call this quest for the light, “attending to our allurement”. The dynamic of allurement is a powerful force in the psychological make-up of the human being.

* * * 

Christ is the ever-present light of our lives, beckoning from the many stars that allure us, calling us toward our own divine image and inspiring us to give our lives as an offering so that all of creation may continue to evolve. Evolution is not random; each of us has a unique role to play. But let’s not be naïve. Each of us possesses an inner Herod who doesn’t like that we’re paying homage to any king other than our self. The story of the Magi got this detail exactly correct. Something within us resists God—call it ego if you will—but there is something within us that thinks that it alone deserves gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It does not want to worship or pay homage; it wants to be on the receiving end of both and will go to great lengths to make it happen. It wants to know where the light is leading, not to submit to it, not to give thanks, not to sing praise and be in awe, but rather to scope out it’s rival, in a vain attempt to outshine it, or even destroy it.

Herod is also found in our families, and in our social, political, economic and religious systems. Herod is present as the power of domination. Herod hates the fascination of others unless it is directed toward him. Herod—within and without—refuses to serve any higher power; Herod refuses to fit in, to take his place in grace. Herod will try to rule the show.

Resources:

Pastor Hutchings Homily
Rev. Robert Barron Reflections on Epiphany
Rev. Raymond Brown, The Christmas Stories: Exploring the Gospel Infancy Narratives

Pope Benedict, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives

Raymond Brown, The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on The Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke

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Theology of Coffee

This blogpost is something I can definitely relate to as coffee is integral to my morning prayer 🙂

Morning Coffee

God In All Things

This is a guest post by Jacqueline Shrader.


starbucks red cupWhen I was still a youngster in high school, my gaggle of gal pals and I loved to bring each other Starbucks in the morning. Nothing was better than the sugary winter drink of a white chocolate mocha, under the guise as a coffee. Nothing made me feel better than my cup of ‘joe’ in hand, flaunting the red holiday cups and demonstrating my maturity as a coffee drinker. A few years passed, and I moved to Seattle to go to college. There, I soon became acquainted with real coffee. My flirting with real coffee quickly escalated into a full on relationship. I tried to learn more about the history, the roasting styles, the economics, and growing patterns—even going so far as to spend a summer in Costa Rica volunteering on a farm that grew coffee. Now, in my post-grad life, I…

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Evolutionary Christianity

WhisperingLove.Org-love-energy-spiritual-blood-sacred-Pierre-Teilhard-de-Chardin-580x435

Last night as I was thinking of a way to succinctly describe Teilhard de Chardin’s views on evolutionary theology.  Lo and behold, through the magic of the Internet portion of the evolving Noosphere, I was fortunate to come across the website David G. Brenner. Dr. Brenner is a Canadian psychologist, professor and author with an interest in the role of spirituality in clinical practice, including the fields of psychological health, spiritual wellness and pastoral care. Dr. Brenner wrote a recent blog article that very eloquently wrote of Teilhard’s vision in a manner much better than I could. I encourage you to read Dr. Brenner’s entire article here but set forth below is an excerpt:

“Recently someone wrote me and said that since my last couple of books were full of talk of becoming and unfolding, he was beginning to sense a lurking presence of evolutionary theology. Apparently he thought this was a bad thing.

My interest in the natural sciences predated my interest in the human ones, although both interests have seamlessly intermingled since my undergraduate years at university. At age fourteen I won a provincial public speaking contest with a talk on evolution so it should not be any surprise to say that I have long been strongly influenced by evolutionary thought. However, it is not the details of evolution that are of primary interest to me. That I happily leave to biologists. My interest is in the meaning and significance of the fact that the universe and everything within it is constantly evolving. To fail to notice this unfolding tendency is simply to fail to be fully in touch with reality.

* * *

My approach to understanding the theological and spiritual implications of evolution draws on the work of the Jesuit palaeontologist and cosmologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He viewed evolution as a divine strategy for birthing and growing a world under the non-interfering, yet persuasive influence of the mystery many of us call God. He described evolution as the movement toward increasing wholeness. It is the process of the complexification of energy that results in a rise of consciousness – this eventually expressing itself in awareness. It is the growing of smaller wholes into larger wholes. It is a cosmic journey of becoming. And, from a monotheistic religious point of view, all of this happens under the dynamic impulse of God’s creative power and love – God being at the heart of the evolutionary process, empowering it from within.

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Dreaming of a New Humanity in a New Year

Beautiful reflection as we get closer to 2015.

Father Bob's Reflections

St. Augustine, Florida at Christmastime.

Dear friends,

When we were preparing for Y2K fifteen years ago, I dreamed about “A New Humanity for a New Millennium.”

And I wrote some really positive stuff about us humans, knowing full well we really didn’t warrant it.

Can we dust those thoughts now as we come up to the center of the second decade of the third millennium and give them a second thought, a second shot . . . ?

. . . . Even though we have failed to live up to the potential of the human family, we nevertheless are called to a deeper faith and hope.  The work of Jesus is hardly begun.  The task of building a new humanity, partially begun in the first and second millennia, remains the agenda for the third.

As we reach beyond our self-imposed limits of sight, we can look beyond ~ look…

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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (December 29, 2014): Christian Love

kindness

For the last couple of days, I’ve given some thought to what you said about how Christianity must not to allow itself to be eclipsed by certain human virtues but must assimilate them (since they, too, are equally incapable of flourishing without implicitly basing themselves on Christ). . . There is a danger that belief in God may (by a distortion, of course, but the danger is still there, in fact) make us lazy, preoccupied with our own ‘ petty salvation ‘, charitable only as a matter of form . . . —The remedy, I believe, for this slackening of the Christian effort, is always the same: to understand that God is obtained by carrying through our task as men,—that Providence in no way dispenses us from effort,—that our neighbour must be loved in himself through love of God.—When I try to analyse myself, it seems to me that my own individual hopes of a heavenly reward do not prevent me from devoting myself to this world’s tasks with the same feelings of conviction, and ardour, and renunciation that I would try to have—that I imagine I would have—if I had no faith.—But I owe this to the particular view I’ve arrived at of the relations between the fulfillment of this world and the kingdom of God . . .

–– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind; Letters from a Soldier-Priest (p. 223-24)

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Sunday Reflection, Feast of the Holy Family (December 28, 2014)

Prayer-for-Families

This Sunday is the Feast of the Holy Family. The readings can be found here.  This is an interesting Feast in that it falls between Christmas and Epiphany. In some ways it seems like an odd placement between these two great events during the Christmas Season. On the other hand it definitely highlights the role of the family as part of God’s plan. On a personal level, it brings home the responsibilities of being a husband and father. I am blessed to have a wonderful wife and two delightful growing boys. It causes me to reflect on the ways that I have been (and not been) a role model of loving and serving my family.

This week’s reflection comes from the Irish Jesuits at Living Space. It is very poignant on the need for parents to be Christ-like role models of love, compassion and commitment. You can find the entire reflection here but set forth below is an excerpt:

And what is true of Jesus is true of all of us. A happy, nurturing family environment is so important. One gets the impression that in many parts of the world and especially in the so-called “developed” world, family life is in deep trouble. Anyone who has regular contact with young people will be aware of how disillusioned many of them are with the family situation and, in particular, in their relations with their parents.

The problem is that many parents expect respect and obedience from their children without actually behaving in a way which deserves it. Parents cannot set double standards by which they feel entitled to do what their children are forbidden from doing. Parents can hardly earn respect if they are constantly fighting with each other, if they are too busy making money to spend time with their children, if they think they can buy off their children with money but have neither the ability nor the willingness to listen to what they have to say.

One father had the experience (not at all unknown) that, as soon as he walked into the room, his son would walk out. When a friend encouraged trying to understand the son rather than insisting the son do what he was told, the father replied, “I already understand him. What he needs is to learn respect for his parents and to show appreciation for all we’re trying to do for him.” The friend suggested another approach: “If you want your son really to open up, you must work on the assumption that you don’t understand him and perhaps never fully will but that you want to and will try.” The father did try, he did listen unconditionally and both father and son learnt much they had not been aware of before.

Ultimately, a Christian family’s agenda has to be set in the light of the Gospel’s vision of life. In these days, too much of it is being set by a highly pressurised society and sometimes by clinging irrationally to out-dated cultural traditions. Perhaps only the Church as a whole and not individual families can deal with this problem not only for its own members but for society as a whole.

There is no question that the quality of any society depends on the quality of its family life. Society exists for the family but the family also exists for society and, unless these two interdependent relationships are recognized, the vision of God’s Kingdom will be thwarted.

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