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A New Cosmology

Cosmology

A New Cosmology
Sunday, October 29, 2017

When I was growing up, the common perception was that science and religion were at odds. Now that we are coming to understand the magnificent nature of the cosmos, we’re finding that many of the intuitions of mystics of all religions are paralleled by scientific theories and explanations. All disciplines are just approaching truth from different angles and levels and questions.

It’s easy to imagine the delight Francis of Assisi found by turning skyward. I can picture him filled with wonder at God’s goodness on display: “he often overflowed with amazing, unspeakable joy as he looked at the sun, gazed at the moon, or observed the stars in the sky.” [1] Thomas Aquinas also intuited this deep connection when he wrote, “Any mistake we make about creation will also be a mistake about God.” [2] Inner and outer realities mirror one another.

Ilia Delio, a Franciscan sister and scientist, shares how our view of the universe and God has been evolving. [3] During the Middle Ages, when most Christian theology was developed, the universe was thought to be centered around humans and the Earth. Scientists saw the universe as anthropocentric, unchanging, mechanistic, orderly, predictable, and hierarchical. Christians viewed God, the “Prime Mover,” in much the same way, with the same static and predictable characteristics—omnipotent and omniscient, but not really loving. God was “out there” somewhere, separate from us and the universe. The unique and central message of the Christian religion—incarnation—was not really taken seriously by most Christians. In fact, our whole salvation plan was largely about getting away from this earth!

Today, we know that the universe is old, large, dynamic, and interconnected. It is about 13.7 billion years old, and some scientists think it could still exist for 100 trillion years. The universe has been expanding since its birth. Our home planet, Earth, far from being the center of the universe, revolves around the Sun, a medium-sized star near the edge of a medium-sized galaxy, the Milky Way, which contains about 200 billion stars. The Milky Way is about 100,000 light years in diameter. Furthermore, it is one of 100 billion galaxies in the universe. We do not appear to be the center of anything. And yet, by faith we trust that we are.

Delio writes:

We’re reaching a fork in the road; two paths are diverging on planet Earth, and the one we choose will make all the difference for the life of the planet. Shall we continue our medieval religious practices in a medieval paradigm and mechanistic culture and undergo extinction? Or shall we wake up to this dynamic, evolutionary universe and the rise of consciousness toward an integral wholeness? [4]

We are called to make the paradigm shift to a new cosmology.

Gateway to Silence:
We live, move, and have our being in love.

References:
[1] Thomas of Celano, The Life of Saint Francis: The First Book, chapter 29. See Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1 (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1999), 250.
[2] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, II.3.1, II.3.6.
[3] See Ilia Delio, CONSPIRE 2014: A Benevolent Universe (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), MP4 video download.
[4] Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Orbis Books: 2013), xxii-xxiii.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 169.

Image credit: The Starry Night (detail), Vincent van Gogh, Saint Rémy, June 1889. Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York.
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