We’ve been exploring the idea that we are in the midst of a Planetary Pentecost: the arrival of a new church that is as big as the cosmos. We’ve also been challenging the perception that rising generations lack an interest in God, but may instead be (as Teilhard describes) “unsatisfied theists.” Humanity, it seems, is ready for a larger, more inclusive, and dynamic language of God.
The fact that this past Sunday was Trinity Sunday illustrates an apt progression in our Teilhardian explorations of a Planetary Pentecost: the Trinity, representing Divinity as a dynamic and creative interdependent community, points us in the direction of how we might begin thinking of world religions in this dawn of the Second Axial age.
If the language of God doesn’t need to be thrown out, but instead evolved, what role – if any – does religion have as we continue toward unification in this Planetary Pentecost? Do we ditch existing religious paths and form a new, global trans-religious amalgam? Or are we being invited into a deeper understanding of the unique role of each spiritual tradition?
Being the good Teilhard-geek that I am, and since I found myself near Teilhard’s NYC stomping grounds this past weekend, I figured it would be a momentous experience for me to celebrate communion and Pentecost at one of the churches where he was in residence, St. Ignatius of Loyola on Park Avenue.
The church building did not disappoint, and housed a clearly seasoned choir taking on some stunning Gregorian chant to boot. I geared myself up for what I expected would be a totally Teilhardian Pentecost celebration.
But that day the NY weather had dropped 20 degrees, and it was cold in that building. Even when the pews filled up more, I still found myself shivering a bit. The priest’s homily was on how Pentecost was the continuation of God’s “sticking it out with us”: “God didn’t give up on the disciples, and God isn’t giving up on us yet.”
The idea brought to mind a parent who is still buying their “goth” daughter preppy clothes with the hope that she’ll come around and remove her piercings and die her hair back to blonde. The … Continue reading...
This past weekend I made a brief escapade to the Big Apple for the American Teilhard Association Annual meeting featuring guest speaker, Ilia Delio.
The brief trip was as crammed with experiences as Manhattan is crammed with people and Pentecost Sunday wound up being an unexpected culmination of the three days.
As many of you know, Pentecost is the celebration in the liturgical Christian calendar of the arrival of the Holy Spirit 10 days after the ascension of Jesus and celebrates the “birthday” of the church. According to the gospels, the Holy Spirit came down in forms of tongues of fire that rested above each of the disciples, and in turn gave them the capacity to speak in different “tongues”. People who heard them started gathering and as they heard all these languages being spoken it created a lot of confusion (like it would), and some even chalked up these “fiery fluent crazies” as being drunk (a most rational conclusion.) The traditional phrase that you’ll often hear on Pentecost is “Veni Sancte Spiritus” which translates as “Come Holy Spirit,” an ancient invocation of the “Bring it on” variety.
This just in from one of my students, Lisa Whitlow from Kansas:
Hi Cynthia – I hope this Lent finds you well and thriving. I am teaching a class at the Episcopal Cathedral here in Kansas City on the Gospel of Thomas. Last night we looked at Logion 23, and some class members were understandably disturbed by its “exclusivity.” I know how I would like to interpret it – that essentially we are all “chosen” because we were all made in the image of God. But what it sounds like there is just a small exclusive club that is singled out by Jesus. Of course it does seem apparent that few “wake up and stand up,” but does it follow that only a few are called? I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have time. Lisa
Jesus said, “I shall choose you, one from a thousand and two from ten thousand, and they will stand as a single one.”
–The Gospel of Thomas, Logion 23
Here’s my response to Lisa:
I would say that we basically self-choose; we opt in or out — not according to our preference or our fantasies about ourselves (in which case we’d all be … Continue reading...
In the previous Ash Wednesday reflection, I suggested that, “Living into our own fullest personhood seems to be contingent upon developing and releasing our talents and abilities into the world.” I also intimated that, while we needn’t be boastful or arrogant about these capacities, neither do we need to be bashful or apologetic about them. And yet we are up against that assumed religious ideal that our eyes should be downcast in self-effacement.
So, if most of us have been raised with the warning that we should not sing our own praises, how can we affirm our God-given talents and skills without resorting to boastfulness? Is there some sort of key or alarm with which we might catch ourselves from toppling over this cliff of arrogance and immodesty?
Unfortunately, we usually try to discern this by observing our external behavior. An inner arrogance, we assume, can be detected by outer boastful behavior. Catch ourselves acting boastfully, we assume, and we can then pull the plug on arrogance. But, really, is that strategy workable or effective? Usually it seems that it is only well after the fact, if ever, that we realize our corrupt faux pas.
In a deep and far-reaching discussion in our Gospel of Thomas group last week one of my good friends made a comment that has stuck with me and about which I have given considerable thought. The point he made was as touching as it was revealing of his generous character. He said that he has become more aware of a very subtle tendency on his part to insert into his conversations with others indirect references to things that he is doing that tend to paint him in a positive light. While this is a long, long way from bragging or boasting, he indicated that he now sees that it is unnecessary and that during this season of Lent he intends to try to curtail it.
I believe I know what he meant by this, and I can recognize that tendency in myself as well, and my propensity is not always that indirect! I love sharing with others my excitement of some of the things I am doing as well as some of the ideas that are cooking within me and some of the successes I have been enjoying. But when is this appropriate and when is it … Continue reading...
Almost exactly this time one year ago, I launched my “Teilhard Challenge,” inviting as many of you as felt so moved to join me in diving into the magnificent, challenging writings of Teilhard de Chardin. I know that many of you have taken the plunge, and the Teilhard buzz out on the planet is palpable and steadily growing. Thank you!
This comes to give you a short “year-end report” on my own work here, and a heads-up about what’s on the docket for 2016.
I did manage to chew my way through most of the Teilhard canon this past year: beginning with a fairly quick read, followed by a more detailed immersion once my inner dowsing rod struck water. That turned out to be with The Human Phenomenon, which is clearly Teilhard’s masterwork and is now available in a magisterial new translation by Sarah Appleton-Weber.
I was also lucky enough to get hold of French versions of four or five of his major versions. If you can read French even a bit, I’d highly recommend you follow this strategy as well. Even if you book-end the French translation with the English one, Teilhard is simply…well…French! And his thought is somehow … Continue reading...
The challenge of this time of year is not just that we have to stand against the temptation of trying to live up to the culture’s (or our mother’s) expectation of how this holiday season is supposed to be transacted (and decorated); the challenge also is about countering the superficial sentimentality that confronts us on every side. Sometimes we may feel that the only alternative to the hype of Christmas is to turn our back on it all and play Scrooge.
The biblical readings in church begin to steer us in a deeper direction. The Advent readings about the end times along with the birth narratives that we are just now coming to remind us of the coming of Christ two thousand years ago and the coming of Christ at the end of the Age.
But there is another dimension of this birth that lies even closer at hand. To grasp this, however, requires a different way of knowing and a different way of seeing. Rather than subject-to-object (me on the inside looking out and encountering Jesus as “other”), this knowing is subject-to-subject. This contemplative knowing is what Raimon Pannikar called Christophany, and it requires what Cynthia Bourgeault refers to … Continue reading...
“I think some of you will be happy to hear how Matthew is playing in my old British Columbia stomping ground.” ~ Cynthia
On November 23 and 24, 2015, Matthew Wright, an Episcopal priest from St. Gregory’s church in Woodstock, NY (yes that Woodstock) presented a group of about two dozen with a remarkable range of material about the Wisdom teachings of Yeshua (the Hebrew name of Jesus). We have long been taught what we are to believe about Yeshua but far less about how the teachings of Yeshua can transform our lives. And Matthew offered this option.
The workshop was not about knowing more, but about knowing more deeply. We are often told to “get out of our heads and into our hearts” which is problematic given the nature of the English language which equates heart with emotion. As Matthew pointed out, the heart is not the emotional centre, it is rather the organ of spiritual perception. It would be more accurate to say “get into your HeartMind”. This understanding makes Yeshua’s phrase “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (become conscious of God), make more sense.
From Cynthia: “Having read this post on Lynn’s Oriental Orthodox Order mailing list, I was deeply moved and thought it important to share it more widely, so I invited Lynn to be a guest blogger.”
Recently I read this astute observation: “We in the West live in a world where there is a surplus of goods and a deficit of meaning.” This struck me not only as entirely true but something that gets to a root cause for the rise of ISIS. In the last few weeks since the tragedies in Paris (also, of course, in Beirut, Mali and Nigeria), we have heard that many of the perpetrators of these horrendous acts are European-born young people–raised in the West. It is true that a good number of the fighters in the armies of ISIS are disaffected youth from the Middle East, but a large number are also youth from the West who are flocking to the siren call to take up arms for the Islamic Caliphate. Why?
One important reason is identified in the statement cited above. Human beings, perhaps above all else, are seekers of meaning. We hate being bored. We are deeply satisfied when