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Center for Action and Contemplation

An Anticipatory Universe

Thursday, June 7, 2018


An Anticipatory Universe
Thursday, June 7, 2018

I believe that the core of the Judeo-Christian revelation is that we are created in the image of God. We lose that and we lose the foundation. Clearly, God is endlessly imaginative and creative. Those who are intensely curious, open, and creative are probably deeply in touch with the One who continues to generate all the “ten thousand things” that surround us.

The Jesuit priest, mystic, and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was just such a person. His insights have much to teach us about the importance of human creativity and ingenuity. Theologian John Haught reflects on Teilhard’s contributions to Christianity:

Throughout Teilhard’s lifetime, Catholicism still adhered to the picture of an essentially static and unchanging cosmos. During the last century, however, Teilhard became one of the very few Christian thinkers to acknowledge that the Darwinian revolution and contemporary cosmology . . . [have] important implications for theology. In the first place, . . .  the sciences have shown beyond any doubt that the universe could not literally have come into being in a state of finished perfection. Second, the figure of Christ and the meaning of redemption must now be understood as having something to do with the fulfillment of the earth and the whole universe, and not just the healing of persons or the harvesting of souls from the material world. And third, after Darwin, Christian hope gets a whole new horizon, not one of expiating [atoning for] an ancestral sin and nostalgically returning to an imagined paradisal past, but one of supporting the adventure of life, of expanding the domain of consciousness, of building the earth, and of participating in the ongoing creation of the universe in whatever small ways are available to each of us. . . .

Our action in the world matters, therefore, because it contributes both to the deeper incarnation of God and to the redemptive gathering of the whole world, and not just human souls, into the body of Christ. The exhilarating Pauline intuition of a universe summed up in Christ (Colossians 1:13-20; Ephesians 1:9-10) matches our scientific understanding of a world struggling to become more. [1] Our spiritual hope, our “resting on the future,” therefore, is simply the flowering and prolongation in human consciousness of what has always been an anticipatory universe. . . .

Finally, [this also has] a bearing on the meaning of worship. As Teilhard writes, “To worship was formerly to prefer God to things, relating them to him [sic] and sacrificing them for him. To worship is now becoming to devote oneself body and soul to the creative act, associating oneself with that act in order to fulfill the world by hard work and intellectual exploration.” [2]

[1] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Human Energy, trans. J. M. Cohen (Harvest Books/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: 1962), 82-102.

[2 ] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, trans. René Hague (Harcourt Brace & Co.: 1969), 92-93.

John F. Haught, Resting on the Future: Catholic Theology for an Unfinished Universe (Bloomsbury: 2015), 41, 52-53.

Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Contemplation hastens the evolution of the human species. Whoever finds this out and practices it will hasten the evolutionary future of the human family. —Thomas Keating
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