Incarnating The Universe: Matter Matters To God

In this blog Ilia Delio expands on Diarmuid O’Murchu’s recent Omega Center contributions on incarnation, and offers her thoughts on the “hidden depth to matter.” (See also Diarmuid O’Murchu’s blog on INCARNATION AS EMBODIMENT OF SPIRIT, and audio interview EXPANDING OUR VIEW OF INCARNATION.)

Diarmuid O’Murchu has written a very accessible book on incarnation and evolution that awakens us to the vitality of change and newness (Incarnation: A New Evolutionary Threshold). Each chapter begins with an inspirational quote that encapsulates the main ideas of the chapter.  I was struck by a quote at the beginning of Chapter Five that states:  “The trouble with some of us is that we have been inoculated with small doses of Christianity which keep us from catching the real thing.”  What is the “real thing” of Christianity?  Diarmuid has said time and again that Christianity is not a static, fixed, disembodied religion. Evolution releases Christianity from the grip of Greek metaphysics.  The Christian position overturns the Greek ideal:  God is not opposed to matter because God has entered into matter.  We still cannot get our heads around the fact that matter matters to God, which means the body matters to God, sex matters to God, body-piercing matters to God, transgendering matters to God—essentially—anything we do to matter matters to God.  This is the core of the doctrine of the Incarnation in which God and material reality are fully united without change, division, separation, or confusion.  The doctrine, formulated at Chalcedon in 451 AD, was an astute way of saying that God does not become matter (pantheism) but God is united with matter (panentheism). God is one with matter so that matter is more than mere materiality; matter bears the depth and breadth of God within it without absorbing God or collapsing God into it.  In fact, it is precisely because God is a personally communicative God [which we name as Trinity] that God can become something other than God.  This is the paradoxical mystery of the incarnation and if you try to figure it out logically you will fail miserably.  One must stand within the tension of the paradox by being at home in the mystery.  And by this I mean that one must simply stand still for a moment and gaze on the rich variety of life in wonder and awe.  There is a hidden depth to matter, an elusive breadth undergirding the material world which we call spirit.  Spirit, Diarmuid tells, is another name for evolution; it is the energy of newness and openness that empowers the material world to move forward in oneness, truth, and beauty.  This spirit-breathing-life is God’s presence in matter.

Teilhard de Chardin once asked:  “Who will give evolution its own God?” We have yet to fully address this question because we dread giving up our static, fixed God.  But Diarmuid enters into this question.  God is spirit and God’s spirit is breathing new life in and through matter.  While this may not sit well with atheists or strict materialists we must face the fact that science can tell us a lot of things about carbon bonds or quarks and energy but it cannot tell us why nature bears an openness to change.  There is no adequate scientific reason to explain novelty in nature.  Nature is entangled in mystery and the more scientists try to unravel the mystery the deeper they find themselves in mystery.  For the nature of nature is not another nature but something other than nature, which we name as God.   God, at the heart of nature, is the dynamic impulse of evolution.

Alfred Whitehead once noted that if God is creator and creation is evolution, then God cannot be an exception to evolution’s principles but must be its chief exemplar.  Hence if evolution is marked by openness, change, novelty, and becoming then so too is God.  Our God is an open God, a changing God, a novel God, a God who is becoming in and through cosmic life. This is the core meaning of incarnation; it is the story of Christmas. And, I think, this is what Diarmuid is getting at.  We cannot stay in an anxiety-ridden, fear-driven world; we are material beings and in and through us God is doing new things.

We cannot know this mystery of Christ as a doctrine or an idea; it is the root reality of all existence.  Hence we must travel inward, into the interior depth of the soul where the field of divine love is expressed in the “thisness” of our own, particular lives. Each of us is a little word of the Word of God, a mini-incarnation of divine love.  The journey inward requires surrender to this mystery in our lives and this means letting go of our control buttons.  It means dying to the untethered selves that occupy us daily; it means embracing the sufferings of our lives, from the little sufferings to the big ones, it means allowing God’s grace to heal us, hold us, and empower us for life.  It means entering into darkness, the unknowns of our lives, and learning to trust the darkness, for the tenderness of divine love is already there.   It means being willing to sacrifice all that we have for all that we can become in the power of God’s love; and finally it means to let God’s love heal us of the opposing tensions within us.  No one can see God and live and thus we must surrender our partial lives to become whole in the love of God.  When we can say with full voice, “you are the God of my heart, my God and my portion forever” then we can open our eyes to see that the Christ in me is the Christ in you.  We are indeed One in love.

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  1. […] mundo de proceso y cambio. Necesitamos una teología que se sienta cómoda en la evolución, como preguntó Teilhard de Chardin : “¿Quién dará a la evolución su propio […]

  2. The Omega Center on February 7, 2018 at 1:14 am

    This comment is shared from Ritiro Omega Discussion Group, reflecting upon “Incarnating The Universe: Matter Matters to God”
    By Sr. Paula Scraba, OSF and the Sisters from the Ritiro

    I am going to begin this reflection of the blog Incarnating The Universe: Matter Matters to God, with the question asked at the end- If you had to share in one word or phrase what you are going to leave with after this sharing what would it be? These are a few thoughts shared: Recognizing God in the whole Universe human and nature; God is Freedom; Let us Fly; Fly with God; Let go and be open; invite yourself to Be Open; God Invites; God is a Big God and don’t let your God be small.
    Other thoughts shared throughout the reflection included the perspective of first the title Mattter-Matters – It does matter. God does matter. How we look at people differently does matter. A comparison was made to the animated movie of Aladdin and the Genie – Where God is the answer. God is constantly trying to trip us up. God is helping us to be free and playful. Like Aladdin being off balance – the Genie constantly wanting him to be free. Same we experience the freedom of God. God is fighting for us to be free but the challenge is can we accept it?
    God is evolution. God is the one- “Fasten your Seat-belt!” God is an experience. It is a transformation into relationships. What came to mind in one reflection was a book “A Light Grasped on Life,” the more I can see and let go of what l think life shows to be the more I experience a freedom of divine love that is already there. Another sharing reminded of a sharing by Michelle Obama on Ellen Show.-When asked about what she thought of what is going on in the news and in America- Michelle’s response was not to go over how things are but to move on in a positive way to make a difference in life for ourselves and others. A closing comment- We all have our plans and God laughs and we have to learn to laugh when we get too serious.
    Just one more sharing at the end of the hour sharing there was this sigh of relief from everyone in the group- how calm and relaxed everyone felt after sharing and putting aside the constant news that we are bombing with everyday of what is happening with our government and the world. It was so nice just to sit and share with one another about the blog Incarnating The Universe: Matter Matters to God

  3. Russell Feist on December 13, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    A helpful far cry from a god who is the same yesterday today and forever. It affirms the Something More I want to affirm and that a purely intellectual approach cannot express or explain. It also adds meaning to thinking we have evolved in the image of God. I will still call myself a post-theist Christian.

  4. Wayne McMilan on December 8, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    For some time now I have been reading O’Murchu’s books, and he has deepened my faith in the God of evolution. God is in nature but beyond nature. Science has helped us move from believing in the tiny God of neo- platonism to the cosmic God beyond our wildest imagination and reckoning.

  5. Luke on December 7, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    The hidden depth in matter – “elusive breadth undergirding the material world which we call spirit”, immediately drew me to something I read only yesterday by Robert Doran where he alluded to the psychological notion of the ‘felt sense’ (articulated by Eugene Gendlin). In describing this link, Doran makes a connection to to Heidegger’s original idea of – befindlichkeit – named as ‘…the way one finds one self…the disposition or mood or self-taste that accompanies all our intentional operations…” (Two Ways of Being Conscious: The Notion of Psychic Conversion)

    Makes me wonder about how the feeling life and all that goes into the phenomenon of feeling and the way one finds and experiences one’s sense of self(neurologically/physiologically/psychologically/spiritually) is also a part of this spirit that undergirds all things.
    Thanks Ilia,


  6. Mary Pat on December 7, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    This deep Wisdom is such a gift. Thank you.

  7. Robert L on December 7, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    The term “God” really is an inadequate term. I am more at home with “Ultimate Reality or Ultimate Mystery”.

  8. Eben Carsey on December 7, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    Accepting that “Our God is an open God, a changing God, a novel God, a God who is becoming in and through cosmic life” means accepting that we cannot foresee the duration nor the curve of the evolutionary trajectory, much less an understanding of any Omega to which it may lead. Our hope lies in trusting only that “our good Lord answered to all the questions and doubts which I could raise, saying most comfortingly: ‘I may make all things well, and I shall make all things well, and I will make all things well; and you will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well.'”

  9. carlos on December 7, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Struggling to find the words. This blog got right to the point/core of so much i’ve been thinking about lately. Essential, universal truth. Feeling hopeful and embraced by grace this morning! Now to “surrender to the mystery…to allow God’s Grace to heal us, hold us, empower sacrifice all that we have for all that we can become in the power of God’s love..surrender our partial lives to become whole in the love of see that the Christ in me is the Christ in you…and to see that we are indeed One in love!!! Thank you Sister.


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