These are very strange times, as we hover between a virus pandemic and an economic recession. The scare of COVID-19 has pervaded the entire globe. People fear for their lives and their childrens’ lives. The supermarkets cannot keep up with the demand for essential foods such as water, eggs and milk. Universities have shut down and stores are closed. Many people are now homebound and there are few cars on the road. The volatility of the stock market has provoked massive selling, as people seek to secure whatever monies they have. Hope has lost sight that the future is open to new life.
Despite the events, I celebrated a lovely Shabbat meal last evening with my Jewish neighbors, Harry and Judy, and their good friends, Michael and Sandy. I was struck by the careful details of the table setting with the lit candles and clothes covering the foods, and then the beautiful prayers of thanksgiving recited in Hebrew over the food we were about to eat. Our gathering was one of community—agape—and during this time of Lent, I thought of Jesus dining at the house of Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus. Although we spoke of the virus pandemic, our being together and sharing a meal transcended our fears. There was a sense of oneness, unity, as we spoke about many things, including religion. I shared Teilhard’s vision on religion and evolution and they had never heard of such insights before. I told them evolution is moving us toward a new religion of the earth, beyond Jewish, Catholic, Muslim religions, and they blinked twice but pondered this new emergence. Harry and Judy just returned from a trip to Israel and were deeply impressed by the collaborative efforts between Jews, Muslims and Christians and the new programs being initiated to promote unity. However, Harry and Judy are deeply tied to their Jewish tradition and are concerned that younger generations are losing the value of tradition. I agreed to some extent. Each religious tradition has beauty and wisdom within it. We do not want to lose the valuable insights of our ancient traditions and yet we cannot remain in the world of the ancients. Sandy wisely noted that as old traditions fade, new traditions arise. I said that evolution enfolds the best of the old into the new. Nothing is really ever lost; rather it is taken up and understood in new ways and expressed with new symbols and meanings. We all agreed that tradition is important and that life flourishes in friendship and community.
After I returned home from dinner last evening and reflected on our time together; I was reminded of the beauty of personhood. We are born out of love and are created to live in love. How did we fall so far apart from one another, turning the possibility of friendship into animosity and opposition? Why have we built walls to separate us instead of bridges to unite us? This is what I pondered. Then I thought to myself, You are infinitely near us O God, within us, among us—the depth and breadth of our very existence. Our panic may be in some strange way a sign of Your presence. Apart from you we are random particles of matter struggling for existence. In You who are the Whole we know ourselves to be whole; each of us is a whole within a larger whole of which you are the center. When You are present we are one and we can pray in a thousand different languages and feel at home together. But when we ignore You, reject You, suppress You, or turn You into an idol, we become scattered fragments of matter without meaningful life together. Only when we move toward one another do you emerge as the center of our lives. As Teilhard lamented, who will give evolution its own God?
Community meals remind me that nature is a relational whole.Twentieth century science opened new windows to the realization that nature is porous, permeable and chaotic. Complex cellular life organizes according to principles of systems rather than individual function. Neural nets, algorithms, genetic codes are just some of the ways that nature has developed tools to calculate the processes of life in ways that are open to more life. Nature does not work according to fixed essences or autonomous existents. Rather nature is a choreographed drama or, better yet, a symphony of unfolding life, where even the seasons express the different movements of nature’s flow.
We are approaching Spring here in North America and, once again, tiny buds are piercing through what appeared dead during the course of winter; the dried bark of the maple tree has been a disguise for the flourishing life within. Every aspect of nature has a part in this symphony—even the Coronavirus. Everything works rightly when it functions in its natural habit. Everything gives you thanks and praise, as Sara Thomsen sings in her song, “Canticle of the Feathered Ones”:
Canticle of the feathered ones
Hymn of the hermit thrush
A song in the holy hush
A lake in the sake of the sun.
Vireos in the vestibule
Warblers wait in the wings
A finch begins to sing
The water, a sparkling jewel
Kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison.
But when the niches of nature are disrupted, exterminated by bulldozers for the purpose of building shopping malls, or forests stripped of their communal life for housing developments, the natural habitats of nature are confused, disoriented and disrupted. Have we ever considered the silent war we declared on nature in the last few hundred years in the name of progress and development? Are we aware that we created conditions of mass migration of species? Even viruses and bacteria can become lost in space, as their simple lives are disrupted. They can be forced into exile, impelled to take up residence in foreign lands where they are not at home. Have we considered that our blind ambition for money and power has provoked climate change, melted glaciers, displaced species and disrupted the natural flow of life? We have become over confident in our ability to conquer but we have lost sense of who we are within the wider world of nature. Lack of self-knowledge, Bonaventure wrote, makes for faulty knowledge in all other matters. Maybe it is time to take a good hard look at ourselves and ask, do we have a part to play in the emergence of deadly viruses? Have we considered our part in the disruption of natural habitats? Finding a new home can be difficult, especially as a foreigner in exile. Even the life of a virus can be disrupted by global warming; forced into exile by climate change where mutation is quite possible, as it tries to adjust to a new environment. I am not trying to vindicate COVID-19 but I am saying that we may not be totally innocent in this matter.
I share these thoughts with you God because many people ask, how come God does not save us or spare us from tragedy and death? Others interpret these times as the beginning of the apocalypse, thinking that You are standing ready in judgment, as we approach “end times.” Still others say, religion is the problem and not the solution. Yet, all of these ideas are foreign to You who are Life itself. You have nowhere to go but to remain with us because you are Life itself. You do not punish because the world is blind, deaf and dumb; rather we punish ourselves by losing trust in You. You remain faithful in love because the world is integral to Your life and You need the world to be truly who You are. You are always present, faithful and empowering in love. You are absolute oneness in love and will not rest until we are joined together fully in love—not just every person—but the whole world, the planet, the galaxies, the entire universe—You are in all and all is bound to share in your light and life.
Teilhard de Chardin lived through many harrowing experiences. His expeditions took him to difficult areas where he endured blistering heat, icy blizzards, poor food, sandstorms, snakes, flash floods, marauding bandits, civil war, political intrigue, bribery, and drastic policy changes leveled by unstable governments. No matter how trying the times, he continued to develop his vision of hope in You. He realized You will not save us; rather we must save ourselves by waking up from our deep sleep and engaging in evolution, in the movement of love toward greater wholeness. To be saved is to be made whole by the power of love.
You told us long ago that you are always present at the doors of our lives but we must answer Your knock on the door: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into her/him and we shall eat together” (Rev. 3:20). We don’t hear you knocking because we are too busy trying to protect ourselves in our isolated existences. We hoard all the goods we can buy and shut our doors. Now we fear a knock on the door because we don’t want to encounter a stranger. Without trust in You, we worry about being eaten alive, like the children in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
Yet Christianity is precisely focused on eating the Body of Christ, which leads me to my final thought on the Eucharist. Someone recently wrote to the Omega Center and asked, how can I make sense of the Eucharist in light of Teilhard’s vision of evolution? What does consubstantiation and transubstantiation mean in an unfinished universe? Well in light of dinner last evening with Harry and Judy, I can say Eucharist is the sacrament of evolution. Last evening, the depth and presence of Your Love in my life met the depth and presence of Your Love in Harry and Judy’s lives—different people from different traditions meeting together in the breaking of bread and the sharing of wine–literally—united in the transcendent power of love. And from this center of convergent goodness You appeared in a new way, a new light, a new understanding, a new power of friendship and unity: “Where two or more are gathered in my Love, there I am in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20). This is Eucharist in an unfolding universe. The bringing together of diverse elements, people, ideas, values, traditions, in the breaking of break and the sharing of wine, toasting together to the fullness of life. When we share life together, You appear in our midst as Life itself, and we rise up together beyond the resistant forces around us and within us; this is the Body of Christ.
Christianity can help us realize that death and resurrection are part of the evolutionary path toward wholeness; letting go of isolated existence for the sake of deeper union. Something dies but something new is born—which is why the chaos of our times is, in a strange way, a sign of hope; something new is being born within. Out of chaos, a star is born. Breakdown can be break through if we recognize a new pattern of life struggling to emerge.
The old structures of power and greed are fighting tooth and nail against the forces of evolution but they are dying out. We are living in the midst of a great epochal shift and we need a new religious awareness to help us realize that You are the power of this great shift; absolute Love can never remain incomplete or partial. Realizing that You are change itself (for perfect Love is always in movement), we must overcome our selfish selves by reaching out to others in love, reaching across the tables, so to speak, that divide and separate us. Awakening to Your presence, can help us know that we need one another; we belong together. Life takes on a new fullness when it is celebrated together. To know we are not alone is the beginning of our peace; and when we live in peace, we live in freedom. If we realize we are not alone, then death has no power over us. Even if we succumb to physical death we will live in a new power of cosmotheandric life, the life of the whole in which we will find our truest personhood for all eternity: “I believe in the resurrection and the life.”
I know you asked my thoughts on the present situation with the coronavirus because You are struggling to breathe new life into this world; to gather all peoples, all creatures, all that exists, into a new unity so that we may become a new earth community where you are at home in the unfolding of life and the dynamism of love. I suppose it will take a number of existential threats for us to realize that You need us to be You, and we need You to be ourselves. We are in this together and no matter what happens O God, You are Love itself and You will always be our future.
Thank you, Sister. God is Listening. We need the Darkness to observe the Light and Love to go forward in LOVE , JOY, and PEACE as a NEW EARTH is BIRTHING. With gratitude for your wisdom and soulful inspiration. All shall be well.
Thank you for being our Judith: When they came to her, all with one accord blessed her, saying:
“You are the glory of Jerusalem!*
You are the great pride of Israel!
You are the great boast of our nation!
By your own hand you have done all this.
You have done good things for Israel,
and God is pleased with them.
May the Almighty Lord bless you forever!”
And all the people said, “Amen!”
The Whole has given us it fragments of itself to piece together — or so it seems — like puzzle pieces, model car parts, personality components, players on sports teams, choir, orchestra and family members, cake ingredients, religions, etc. In reality, there are no parts to the Whole, no fragments to unite, no segments to join, no divisions or polarities to reconcile. These are only manifold appearances of a unity, facets of a single diamond each reflecting the same light. Catch the vision of that unifying light and each fragment dissolves into the seamless Whole — just as it is, has been, and ever will be, world without end. Amen. What dissolves is the faulty human perception that visualizes the created order only in fragments. It is the soul that is divided. God is one. So the paradigms of the modern church, modern science and all religions have been based on some fragments of truth rather than the comprehensive synthesis of God, his kingdom and Creation, all of which are a seamless unity joined by a single energy field. Define the energy field, the mechanism(s) by which it interfaces with space-time and you have not only have found the holy grail of the interior life, and the new religion of the earth soon to come.
Joe – love your comments about the inner life. The paradigm described by your last sentence really resonates within me. I would love to discuss this with you at some time.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
This virus provides awareness that we are one humanity and that we live in one world. Lord, help us to pray for “us” as you intended.
Debra Kehl reply – Thank You Ilia, your writings always sprout new seeds like the spring season blossoming. I’m in the midst reading your book Birth of a Dancing Star and love learning the roller coaster journey of your life! I like you was chosen/called to follow God. A yoga teacher certified 1996, loving nature and nature of self. I write What Nature Teaches as example – Forsythia Bush Teaches its wholeness – Along with my full brilliant beauty, I bend my branches back in earth, I root and bloom, to rise again. Resurrection
We have so much to learn – I hope I am ready to learn, with all my humility that I can muster, all that I hear and am learning from you dearest Sister Ilia, on my own and with all my cohorts at The Center for Action and Contemplation and all my coworkers at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, where hope is ever present with a no matter what-ness thanks to all who believe and support in our mission! Hope to get to The Omega Center one day…another bridge to create!!
With great admiration and love,
Loved this! Thank you, Ilia, for your continued inspiration!
I just read what Ilia prayed & shared.. building bridges with each other..and felt sooo comforted and renewed in my life to do similar things in Toronto & elsewhere..have tears of joy @ new spring arriving w.new life…Frank Vandersteen & Fam
For another dear God meditation, have you seen David Tacey’s recent book, ‘The Postsecular Sacred – Jung, Soul and Meaning in an Age of Change’ (Routledge, 2020) Chapter 7, ‘God after God’, a fascinating discussion – and you, Sister Delio, are quoted.
Thanks for your posts which I read with interest.
The current crisis has prompted a few of my friends to comment that God has left us and that we must wait for God’s return. I just didn’t know how to respond? Your newsletter, so perfectly timed and so appreciated, was shared with those friends of mine who need a boost. Thank you!
This is brilliant. I love this: “He (Teilhard) realized You (God) will not save us; rather we must save ourselves by waking up from our deep sleep and engaging in evolution, in the movement of love toward greater wholeness. To be saved is to be made whole by the power of love.” God will not save us? That’s radical, but I believe it!
The thing this also makes me think of is that we need to experience Love in order to come out of fear. Like Joseph was so in shock that Mary was pregnant, and not by him, that maybe he would be ridiculed, and maybe he didn’t want her to suffer, so he looked to control and manage things which would have cause pain for Mary and the community, but God was so gracious to appear to him in such a loving way, it caused Joseph to open his heart, AND do something really radical! How we need to show great love to each other so that we each come out of our small places of fear at this time.
I told a Catholic clergy friend the other day..”You cannot do God without me.” As I realize our interconnectedness, my mind speaks to the stranger, perhaps seen as the enemy – “I cannot do God without you either.”
Thank you for the work that you do!
Beautiful letter to God!
I too shared a dinner with good friends about the time of your Shabbat celebration. It was an Agape meal, and it has sustained me through the following week; though I yearn for this kind of nourishment again!
It had been a while since being together; we ordered as we usually do – a few items to share. We talked, reached across the table with our chop sticks, slurped some delicious dumpling liquid, laughed, pondered church. [I have a medical background, and my friends are probably more intelligent than me, but none had concern of becoming sick. I am not condoning not following social distancing conscripts … Maybe we were a bit foolish].
In our momentary blissful ignorance, we were more fully immersed the the real presence of the Lord … and we were more fully human. And the fact that that experience can sustain over time is the fruit of living into fullness.
Ahh, my evolutionary sister, and Theilhard, my evolutionary father, I sink into your thoughts like one who has traveled long and far to get home. It has been lonely after stepping out of my Protestant tradition to go in search of the holistic communion. Who will give evolution its own God? I have found that cosmic intelligent love and call it Evolutionary Dancer. I would so love to know how to share my findings within Omega Centre’s conversations. Blessings continue to be in and through you.
The Eucharist, the Seder, the Cosmic Communion — the ritual of the meal is without borders. It takes courage to celebrate it in times of lock down. It is a time for courage and finding ways to come together as a whole people of the Earth Communion. Thank you for sharing your story.
My book called, Evolutionary Dancer. Out, In, and on the Fringe of the Church and will be published this Spring and includes a year of Evolutionary Rituals that, I pray, enable the best of our traditions to speak from within the context of the Universe Story to the planetary climate crisis. I wonder how many of your readers are Evolutionaries, dancing with hope?
Reading everything you wrote Ilia, along with every response, brings Christ alive to all who partake. I feel I have shared a sacred meal with all of you.
I feel and love the poetry of what you say Ilia and would love to identify with the unanimity of the respondents above. However, I feel uncomfortable with having to acknowledge my discomfort at what I conceive as the problem of how, like much of Teilhard’s thinking, the language you weave carries a degree of speculation that is of course delifghtfully spellbinding. It of course resonates with your brother Franciscan, Richard Rohr who posits with Teilhard that the first incarnation took place at the time of the Big Bang and that this was the expression of Godself compelled as Love itself to self-donation. It is a delightfully Romantic and captivating framework and in so far as it is a self-contained framework it works as theology. But I cannot help but feel challenged by the reality that from the beginning of the ever evolving first incarnation, destructive forces were at play in the universe that cannot be attributed to the agency of humans. The meteorites, the destruction of life at the time of the dinosaurs, the crashing tectonic plates and their utter destruction of species and multiple forms of life must be attributed to Him/Her to whom you wrote. Thus I need to ask Him/Her why was destructiveness built into the first dispensation prior to the emergence of human life. Pain existed prior to our appearance and suffering was born in our resistance to it according to our Buddhist brothers and sisters. In our approach to Easter we see the pain of Christ accepted, embraced, transformed. Our model in a response to a universe that included in its dispensation the inevitability of destruction in which we of course have played our part. But at the heart of this mystery is that fact that so has God.
I so appreciate your wisdom, Ilia. There are two thought I’d like to share today.
#1) We can all see that the church is still mired in patriarchy, in the exclusion of women from leadership–or even equality! Moreover, despite the fact that Jesus (according to scripture) said not one word about sexuality, our Catholic Church has remained defended against accepting those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer or questioning, intersexed, or asexual (LGBTQIA). “Let them come to me… ” “That all may be one…” These are words that seem to go unheeded by church leaders, despite the decades of advocacy by courageous religious like Sister Jeannine Gramick and (in the past) Fr. Robert Nugent. Moreover, the issues of sexual abuse of children… or the secrecy surrounding so many wonderful Christ-like gay priest… are simply covered up. So it appears that the Catholic Church has remain unmoved and unenlightened regarding “human bodies”–that we are created with uniquely, with sexuality and gender.
#2) What gives me hope for change-to-come is one fact: Laudato Si! THROUGH Pope Francis, seeds of awareness of Earth have again been seeded. Evolution is thought of as a slow process, yet it can have rapid changes. We have the current example of humans’ growing consciousness regarding its tiniest organisms: the COVID 19 virus. If we 7.6 billion humans can “wake up” within a few weeks or months to a pandemic, then other forms of awakening may also arise in a relatively short time.
However, for a plant to grow it needs not just seeds, but soil, water, and sunlight. Pope Francis, a world-renown figure, has planted seeds. Now it’s up to us: May we each contribute the “sun and water”–our voices, our wisdom, our care for Earth and its embodied population! When Pope Francis so wisely acknowledged regarding gay persons, “Who am I to judge?”–he seemed to echo Jesus’ “I came not to judge but to save.” May we all ask ourselves: what can I do to “save” another –to raise up to dignity–our beloved Earth or any LGBTQIA human?
I was struck by the beauty of the coronavirus particle as my eyes rested on the image. It’s little crownlike projections are perfectly adapted to unite with our cells. It is what we do with it that leads to the transformation. This is true on a physical, biological level as a host and on a communal social level. Even those of us who ultimately die from it leave words and memories and marks on the universe that persist across time and space. Those who survive are perhaps strengthened in some way, biologically and communally. I just found this site on Easter (of all days) and the resurrection motif occurred to me. I am impressed by those around me making due with less than usual. I am still hopeful on this day which I am celebrating differently than in the past.
AMEN !! Thank you. May we all move into the space of loving one another.