Theme:
Cosmology: Part Two

Cosmology: Part Two

Summary: Sunday, September 1—Friday, September 6, 2019

Evolution brings with it the rise of consciousness, and as consciousness rises, so too does awareness of God. —Ilia Delio (Sunday)

To see evolution as revelatory of the divine Word means that we come to see the various forms and rhythms of nature as reflective of divine qualities. —Ilia Delio (Monday)

For what we know and what we see are only shadows that cannot reflect the fullness of the cosmos or our place in it. —Barbara Holmes (Tuesday)

The universe forms one natural whole, which finally can subsist only by dependence from [Christ]. —Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Wednesday)

Christ is at the heart of all that moves us. —Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Thursday)

The human vocation is to be true co-workers with God and stewards of creation. —Denis Edwards (Friday)

 

Practice: Contemplating the Cosmos

The universe is not a tragic expression of meaningless chaos, but a marvelous display of an orderly cosmos. —Martin Luther King, Jr. [1]

Dr. Barbara Holmes suggests that the emerging story of the universe might have the power to actually heal:

From the intersection of theology, cosmology, physics, and culture emerges a view of human life that is not divided neatly along categories of race, ethnicity, class, and sexual orientation. Instead, human life on quantum and cosmic levels evinces a oneness that is not dependent on religious hope or social plan. It is an intrinsic element of a universe that is both staggering and healing in its human/divine scope. [2]

Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium, says, “Our molecules are traceable to stars that exploded and spread these elements across the galaxy.” He explains:

[If you] see the universe as something you participate in—as this great unfolding of a cosmic story—that, I think should make you feel large, not small. . . . You will never find people who truly grasp the cosmic perspective . . . leading nations into battle. . . . When you have a cosmic perspective there’s this little speck called Earth and you say, “You’re going to what? You’re on this side of a line in the sand and you want to kill people for what? Oh, to pull oil out of the ground, what? WHAT?” . . . Not enough people in this world, I think, carry a cosmic perspective with them. It could be life-changing. [3]

Science reveals that everything is both matter and energy or spirit, co-inhering as one. This is a Christocentric universe. That realization changes everything. Matter is holy; the material world is our temple where we can worship God simply by loving and respecting matter. The Christ is God’s active power inside the physical world. [4]

How might we begin to experience this cosmic or universal perspective? We might begin by looking to the sky. Here are a few ways to practice growing this cosmic consciousness.

Find a place where you can sit or lie down with a view of a clear night sky. Just look up and let your eyes open to the vastness before you. Notice the light you can see and travel in your imagination to the source of that light and even further. Lose yourself completely in the deep, mysterious, and unimaginably vast universe. [5]

Contemplate the size of the universe:

  • There are at least 200 billion galaxies in our universe.
  • There are at least 100-200 billion planets in our galaxy alone, the Milky Way.
  • That means there are at least 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (one septillion) planets in the universe.
  • And you are a part of it. . . .

Reflect on your life as a whole and consider Barbara Holmes’ words from earlier this week:

Solutions [in our desire for justice] may always be out of reach, but our chances of success are better when our efforts are invested with the humility that comes only with an inward and upward glance, for we are carrying our possibilities within the resonance of starborn and interconnected selves. [6]

References:
[1] Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love (Harper & Row: 1963), 115.

[2] Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently (Bloomsbury T&T Clark: 2002, 1st edition), 11.

[3] “Neil DeGrasse Tyson Explains Why The Cosmos Shouldn’t Make You Feel Small,” interview with WBUR News/NPR (February 27, 2014) https://www.wbur.org/npr/283443670/neil-degrasse-tyson-explains-why-the-cosmos-shouldnt-make-you-feel-small.

[4] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Christ, Cosmology, and Consciousness (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), MP3 download.

[5] If you live in a place where clear, dark skies are hard to find (or you don’t want to wait until nighttime), these images from the Hubble Space Telescope offer another view of space: https://www.spacetelescope.org/images/archive/top100/.

[6] Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently (Trinity Press International: 2002), 172-173.

For Further Study:
Beatrice Bruteau, Evolution Toward Divinity: Teilhard de Chardin and the Hindu Traditions (Theosophical Publishing House: 1974)

Ilia Delio, Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, Consciousness (Orbis Books: 2015)

Denis Edwards, Jesus and the Cosmos (Paulist Press: 1991)

Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently (Trinity Press International: 2002)

Richard Rohr, Great Themes of Paul: Life as Participation (Franciscan Media: 2002), CD

Richard Rohr, Christ, Cosmology, and Consciousness (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), MP3 download

Richard Rohr, A New Cosmology: Nature as the First Bible (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009), CD, MP3 download

Image credit: Fish Magic (detail), Paul Klee, 1925, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To see evolution as revelatory of the divine Word means that we come to see the various forms and rhythms of nature as reflective of divine qualities. —Ilia Delio
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Cosmology: Part Two

Eternity
Friday, September 6, 2019

I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. —Revelation 21:1

John doesn’t say the old earth is destroyed; it’s made new. Not only humans, but the whole of creation is moving toward a full maturation of the God-seed planted within. This makes Christians on some level evolutionists. History, like the universe, is unfolding. For me, this is the meaning of the second coming of Christ. The unfolding mystery of the Body of Christ is the second coming, and it’s ongoing. [1] Read more of theologian Denis Edwards’ insights on this theme:

Jesus Christ is God’s irrevocable promise of salvation within the evolving cosmos. In the light of Jesus, and God’s promise given in him, Christian theology knows that final catastrophe, and a total halt to progress, are not the future of the unfolding universe. The final goal of evolutionary history for free bodily human beings is intimacy with God, a future shared in some way by the whole created cosmos.

What relationship is there between the world which we help to build by our participation and the new Earth? How is the new Earth related to our work, to culture and to science? How is it related to our efforts to create a just and peaceful world? Is all of this simply the place where we prove ourselves? Or is the new Earth directly related to what we are constructing here and now?

[Karl] Rahner [1904–1984] answers that the coming kingdom of God will be the deed of God. This is the standard Christian tradition concerning the end time. The final consummation will not be simply an outcome of what has been planned and worked at by [humans]. We face a future which is radically mysterious and uncontrollable, because it is of God.

But Rahner claims this deed of God can be thought of as the self-transcendence of our own history. [2] Human history, like the history of nature, is to be transformed from within by the power of God. Human history is destined to endure, but it will endure in a radically transfigured form. God’s action is free and beyond our calculations or control, but it comes from within.

History itself passes into definitive consummation in God. . . . It is not just human beings who endure into eternity, nor is it simply some moral distillation of what they achieve. Rather “that which endures is the work of love as expressed in the concrete in human history.” [3] Human work and human love have eternal significance. . . .

The human vocation, then, is to be true co-workers with God and stewards of creation. The human task of completing creation derives its meaning from the redemptive and divinizing will of God. This applies even to those who do not know the significance of their contributions. Those whose actions are directed toward the good of the cosmos, believers and unbelievers alike, fall under the impulse of grace.

References:
[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Brie Stoner, Paul Swanson, “Jesus, Incarnation and the Christ Resurrection,” Another Name for Every Thing, season 2, episode 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: August 10, 2019), cac.org/podcast.

[2] Karl Rahner, “The Theological Problems Entailed in the Idea of the ‘New Earth,’” Theological Investigations, vol. X, trans. David Bourke (Seabury Press: 1977), 269.

[3] Ibid., 270.

Denis Edwards, Jesus and the Cosmos (Paulist Press: 1991), 96-97.

Image credit: Fish Magic (detail), Paul Klee, 1925, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To see evolution as revelatory of the divine Word means that we come to see the various forms and rhythms of nature as reflective of divine qualities. —Ilia Delio
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Cosmology: Part Two

At the Heart
Thursday, September 5, 2019

In a recent episode of our podcast Another Name for Every Thing, Brie Stoner, Paul Swanson, and I reflected on why people are so uncomfortable when we say things like “Christ is in all things.” I’ve been accused of being a pantheist, but that’s lazy thinking, a cheap shot. I’m a panentheist. The Christian word for that is incarnationalism, the manifestation of the divine through the natural, physical, and human world. It’s a Christ-soaked world. Jesus—the Word made flesh—comes out of the world rather than into the world. Christ was here all the time. In Christ all of history and all of us are held together. And you do not have to use the word Christ to experience this radical unity! [1]

Read more from Beatrice Bruteau on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s view of the cosmic, universal Christ:

“There exists in all beings,” says Teilhard, “a common centre” through which “they meet together at a deeper level . . . and we may call this Centre equally well the point upon which they converge, or the ambience in which they float. . . .” This bond of unity constitutes the “axis of all individual and collective life. It is in virtue of that axis that we see that Christ has not only a mystical, but a cosmic body. . . . And this Cosmic Body, to be found in all things . . . is eminently the mystical Milieu; whoever can enter into that milieu is conscious of having made [their] way to the very heart of everything, of having found what is most enduring in it.” [2]

This is, in Teilhard’s view, the cosmic meaning of the divine incarnation. “The totality of all perfections, even natural perfections, is the necessary basis for that mystical and ultimate organism . . . the plenitude of the incarnate Word. . . . The whole world is concentrated and uplifted in expectancy of union with the divine”. . . . [3]

How can Christ be so universal? “Simply as a magnification, a transformation, realized in the humanity of [Jesus], of the aura that surrounds every human monad.” [4] “The universe takes on the lineaments of Jesus;” [5] . . . It is through Christ that God “animates the whole complex of exterior events and interior experiences. . . . [Christ] is at the heart of all that moves us.” [6] “Christ is . . . the Shepherd (the Animator) of the Universe.” As “from the depths of Matter to the highest peak of the Spirit there is only one evolution.” So all beings and all works serve “physically to complete the Body of Christ, whose charity animates and recreates all things.” [7] Teilhard is referring here, no doubt, to the scripture, which, likening Jesus to the Good Shepherd, affirms that there is only “one fold and one shepherd” [John 10:16]. . . . Teilhard summarizes his position and his faith this way:

I believe that the universe is an evolution.
I believe that evolution proceeds towards spirit.
I believe that in [humanity] spirit is fully realized in person.
I believe that the supremely personal is [also] the Universal Christ. [8]

References:
[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Brie Stoner, Paul Swanson, “Jesus, Incarnation and the Christ Resurrection,” Another Name for Every Thing, season 2, episode 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: August 10, 2019), cac.org/podcast.

[2] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Writings in Time of War, trans. René Hague (Harper & Row: 1968), 175.

[3] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe (Harper & Row: 1965), 152.

[4] Writings in Time of War, 253.

[5] Hymn of the Universe, 153.

[6] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind: Letters from a Soldier-Priest, 1914-1919 (Harper & Row: 1965), 282-283.

[7] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, trans. Norman Denny (Harper & Row: 1964), 24.

[8] See Teilhard de Chardin, “How I Believe,” Christianity and Evolution, trans. René Hague (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: 1971; essay ©1969), 96.

Beatrice Bruteau, Evolution Toward Divinity: Teilhard de Chardin and the Hindu Traditions (Theosophical Publishing House: 1974), 55-58.

Image credit: Fish Magic (detail), Paul Klee, 1925, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To see evolution as revelatory of the divine Word means that we come to see the various forms and rhythms of nature as reflective of divine qualities. —Ilia Delio
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Cosmology: Part Two

All-in-Everything
Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) was a Jesuit paleontologist and mystic whose writings were suppressed by Catholic authorities during his lifetime. Today there’s a growing appreciation for his work which brings science and religion together and mobilizes Christians to participate with God in the process of bringing the universe to its fulfillment in Christ. In particular, we Franciscans resonate with Teilhard. I first discovered him in college in the early 1960s, during the heady years of the Second Vatican Council, and he filled me with a cosmic, earthy vision for my life.

What did Teilhard mean by “the cosmic Christ”? Dr. Beatrice Bruteau (1930–2014) explained:

Teilhard did not really mean that Christ had a “third nature,” a cosmic one, in addition to his divine and human natures. . . . Teilhard teaches only a cosmic function, significance or presence of Christ, not a cosmic nature. . . .

Nevertheless, it seems clear that Teilhard saw and felt something—and that strongly—for which his traditional language could not offer him any adequate image. He drew heavily from the words of St. Paul when he spoke of “the Body of Christ” or of Christ’s role with respect to the whole of creation or of his “energy” which still presses the world-process forward toward its goal:

[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . .  all things were created through him and for him [Colossians 1:15]. . . .

But Teilhard felt that the full cosmic significance of this vision and its physical reality had been overlooked among his coreligionists. . . .

When Teilhard tried to stress the cosmic aspect and bring it forward as a central motif in the Christian view of reality, his friends were embarrassed. . . . Teilhard apparently had an instinctive grasp of something which he was not free to express under the terms of his tradition. Yet it was a vital feature of his own system, in fact, it was the bond which he so desperately sought between his God in heaven, taught by his religion, and his God in the earth, taught by science and experience in life. The story of his life is the story of his struggle to bring this darkly sensed Mediator into such a form that both sides of him could live with it. It was a terrible conflict, but it produced a great many beautiful fruits both in his writings and in his own character. . . .

The central conception in Teilhard’s notion of the cosmic Christ is that “the universe forms one natural whole, which finally can subsist only by dependence from [Christ]. That’s the main thing.” [1] Teilhard sees himself as “the evangelist” of “Christ in the universe,” one who preaches Christ as containing “all the unyielding immensity and grandeur of the world.” [2] His “fundamental vision” [3] as expressed in The Divine Milieu is of Christ as All-in-everything, in its reality and in its future.

References:
[1] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind: Letters from a Soldier-Priest, 1914-1919 (Harper & Row: 1965), 300.

[2] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Writings in Time of War, trans. René Hague (Harper & Row: 1968), 69.

[3] See French editor’s note in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu (Harper & Row: 1960), 155.

Beatrice Bruteau, Evolution Toward Divinity: Teilhard de Chardin and the Hindu Traditions (Theosophical Publishing House: 1974), 52-55.

Image credit: Fish Magic (detail), Paul Klee, 1925, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To see evolution as revelatory of the divine Word means that we come to see the various forms and rhythms of nature as reflective of divine qualities. —Ilia Delio
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Cosmology: Part Two

Expanded Options
Tuesday, September 3, 2019

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. —1 Corinthians 13:12

Living School faculty member Dr. Barbara Holmes writes about our work for justice as creation “groans” toward fullness:

It is nothing short of a miracle to be situated in a cosmos that keeps its secrets but reveals just enough to keep us intrigued. Each day that dawns is a celebration of the fact that we have been invited to consider how our lives are spent; how we embrace and recoil from the creative genesis of darkness, which is also light; and how we relate to others. One thing is certain: Our conflicts seem insignificant from the perspective of an expanding universe. As we struggle for justice, the universe invites us toward expanded options. We can incorporate the wonder of science in our liturgy and in our politics. We can strengthen and challenge theological precepts with information about the intricacies of a cosmos that defies our inclinations toward control. Finally, we can regard our differences as an intrinsic manifestation of a complex order.

The quantum world is all expectancy and potential, and it includes us whether we know it or not. In such a dynamic life space, we dare not weary of well doing. Although we continue to harm one another with our measurements of worth and assessments of shortcomings, we are peering into a glass darkly. For what we know and what we see are only shadows that cannot reflect the fullness of the cosmos or our place in it. . . .

[This] is a call to broaden our collective vision and to create a more expansive matrix for considerations of our pleasurable and not so pleasurable differences. Neither isolated liberation movements nor sporadic periods of social activism can sustain justice initiatives. Effective efforts to make mutuality and justice integral to the life space must include spiritual and cosmological realities.

For the last few decades, we have glared steadily at issues of race and ethnicity and applied our best solutions, only to watch the issues return in different guises. . . . Our chances of success are better when our efforts are invested with the humility that comes only with an inward and upward glance, for we are carrying our possibilities within the resonance of starborn and interconnected selves.

Our desire for justice is deeply rooted in systems that are holistic and relational. We have not forced, created, or dreamed this shared destiny; it seems to be the way of the universe. Perhaps we will find paths toward mutuality when we consider how our lives are spent within a complex cosmos. However, we will not wrest an egalitarian order from the chaos with swords drawn or in fitful dreams of better times, but with an alertness and commitment to the difficult work of knowing self, others, and the universe as integral parts of a cosmic order that announces its Author, our liberation, and the human potential for transcendence in every star and galaxy.

Reference:
Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently (Trinity Press International: 2002), 172-173.

Image credit: Fish Magic (detail), Paul Klee, 1925, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To see evolution as revelatory of the divine Word means that we come to see the various forms and rhythms of nature as reflective of divine qualities. —Ilia Delio
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Cosmology: Part Two

A New Consciousness
Monday, September 2, 2019

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, full of grace and truth. . . . From his fullness, we have all received, grace upon grace. —John 1:1-3, 14, 16

God’s plan and presence—the Christ—has been with us since the beginning of the universe. In Jesus, the blueprint materialized and became visible, showing us the way toward wholeness. The Greek word John uses for “fullness” is pleroma. Paul uses the very same word in several places and clearly teaches that “You have a share in this fullness” (Colossians 2:9) and even “You are filled with the utter fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). Talk about inherent dignity and empowerment!

Ilia Delio continues reflecting on what this means for us and maturing Christianity:

Evolution invites us to expand our consciousness of the divine mystery beyond the realm of human history and to see humankind [and all of creation] within the process of an evolving cosmic history. We come from the whole and belong to the whole. As church, as theologians, as citizens of the universe, therefore, we need an “option for whole,” and by this I mean we need a new consciousness that includes our Big Bang expanding universe and biological evolution as part of our intellectual search for truth. Theology must begin with evolution if it is to talk of a living God, and hence it must include physical, spiritual, and psychological change as fundamental to reality. Einstein’s discovery of relativity means that space-time is a dimension of the unfinished, expanding universe; thus, whatever we say about God is bound up with the universe. By extending the knowing process into the furthest realms of cosmic relatedness, being acquires new depth. Knowledge cannot be satisfied with human history alone; it must reach into cosmic history, if it is in search of truth. To see evolution as revelatory of the divine Word means that we come to see the various forms and rhythms of nature as reflective of divine qualities. This means moving beyond the static images of God that are so familiar to us and that remain irretrievably tied to an archaic understanding of the cosmos. We are invited, through modern science, to widen our theological vision, to awaken to a dynamic cosmos in which we are deeply related, and to seek the divine Word expressing itself in the rich fecundity of cosmic life.

Reference:
Ilia Delio, Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, Consciousness (Orbis Books: 2015), 147-148.

Image credit: Fish Magic (detail), Paul Klee, 1925, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To see evolution as revelatory of the divine Word means that we come to see the various forms and rhythms of nature as reflective of divine qualities. —Ilia Delio
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Cosmology: Part Two

Participating in God
Sunday, September 1, 2019

From the beginning until now, the entire creation as we know it has been groaning in one great act of giving birth. —Romans 8:22

Just this one line from Paul should be enough to justify evolution. God creates things that create themselves! Wouldn’t this be the greatest way that God could create—to give autonomy, freedom, and grace to keep self-creating even further? Healthy parents love their children so much that they want them to keep growing to their highest potential, even surpassing their parents. As Jesus said to his disciples, “Don’t get too excited about the things that I did. You’re going to do even greater things!” (John 14:12).

For a long time, many people were satisfied with a very static universe. But now we clearly see the universe is unfolding and expanding. It’s moving until, as Augustine (354–430) put it, “In the end there will only be Christ loving himself,” [1] or as Paul wrote, “There is only Christ, he is everything and he is in everything” (Colossians 3:11). Paul saw history as an ongoing process of ever greater inclusion of every lesser force until in the end, “God will be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). Christ is the Christian word for the One reality that includes everything and excludes nothing.

Franciscan scientist Sr. Ilia Delio writes about this cosmology as participatory movement:

Evolution impels us to think of God as drawing the world from up ahead, attracting it into a new future. Process theology maintains that God is neither simply an impersonal order nor simply the individual person who creates the universe. Rather, God and world are in process together; the world continually participates in God and God in the world. God, who is the primordial ground of order, embodies within Godself the order of possibilities, the potential forms of relationship that are not chaotic but orderly even before they are actualized. Nothing less than a transcendent force, radically distinct from matter but also incarnate in it, could ultimately explain evolution. . . . God is distinct from the world yet essential to it, just as the world is essential to God. Apart from God there would be nothing new in the world and no order in the world. God influences the world without determining it. This influence is the lure of ideals to be actualized, the persuasive vision of the good; it contributes to the self creation of each entity. . . .

Evolution brings with it the rise of consciousness, and as consciousness rises, so too does awareness of God. The human person is created to see God in every aspect of life, charged with divine energy, and to love what he or she sees. In this respect scripture is written daily in the supermarkets, nursing homes, playgrounds, post offices, cafes, bars, and in the scripts of home and community life. God is not hovering over us; God is the amazing depth, breadth, imagination, and creativity in culture, art, music, poetry, science, literature, film, gyms, and parks—all in some way speak the word of God. Every place is the place to find God, and God is in everything. [2]

References:
[1] Augustine of Hippo, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, 10.3. See Gerald O’Collins, Salvation for All: God’s Other Peoples (Oxford University Press: 2008), 222. Original text: “Et erit unus Christus amans seipsum.”

[2] Ilia Delio, Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, Consciousness (Orbis Books: 2015), 143-144.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Great Themes of Paul: Life as Participation, disc 11 (Franciscan Media: 2002), CD;

Christ, Cosmology, and Consciousness (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), MP3 download; and

A New Cosmology: Nature as the First Bible, disc 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009), CD, MP3 download.

Image credit: Fish Magic (detail), Paul Klee, 1925, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To see evolution as revelatory of the divine Word means that we come to see the various forms and rhythms of nature as reflective of divine qualities. —Ilia Delio
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