What we now call complexity, and recognize as doing its creative work on the very edge of chaos, is at the heart of God’s ecstasy in creation

From the Center for Contemplation and Action and Beatrice Bruteau, God’s Ecstasy: The Creation of a Self-Creating World, (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2016, © 1997), 9-10, 13.

If you wear glasses, perhaps you’ve experienced receiving a new prescription and suddenly you see the world in a new way. We often get used to “seeing the world” with an inadequate or outdated prescription. It is only when we go in for a check up that we realize we need a lens update, and what a difference it makes!

Cosmology—our understanding of the origins of our world and how our world works—is just like that. How we understand the universe comprises a “lens” through which we tend to understand everything else in life. Many of us who grew up in the church don’t realize that we’ve inherited a pretty blurry cosmology: a usually male God, separate from our world, who stands back and judgmentally observes the goings on of our universe and humanity’s faults and failings. This just does not work, and I do not apologize for saying it.

This view has gone a long way in perpetuating the idea that we are isolated from each other and from God and that there is something inherently wrong with us and the world. Christianity’s adherence to Greek philosophical ideas that matter and spirit are separate has perpetuated a split between theology (or “God-talk”) and science.

Beatrice Bruteau (1930-2014), who brings such profound spiritual intelligence to our necessary conversation, can help us update our cosmology to a lens that is more compatible with science and the world around us. Rather than a God that is removed from us, she explains how the Trinity reveals God as actively moving in and through our world:

What we now call complexity, and recognize as doing its creative work on the very edge of chaos, is at the heart of this miraculous picture. There may not be an external Designer and a micro-managing Providence from the outside, but neither is the world devoid of divinity. The divinity is so intimately present in the world that the world can be regarded as an incarnate expression of the Trinity, as creative, as expansive, as conscious, as self-realizing and self-sharing.

I have called this creative act God’s ecstasy. Ecstasy means standing outside oneself. It is kin to the kenosis of Philippians 2:6—being God is not a thing to be clung to, so God empties Godself, taking the form of limitation in finitude, and is born as a universe. It is the defining divine act: self-giving, being-bestowing. Ecstasy has the connotations of extreme love and supreme joy. That is right for the creation of the universe.

. . . We need a new theology of the cosmos, one that is grounded in the best science of our day. It will be a theology in which God is very present, precisely in all the dynamisms and patterns of the created order, in which God is not rendered absent by the self-organizing activities of the natural world, but in which God is actual as the one who makes and the one who is incarnate in what is made by these very self-making activities.

From Sallie McFague, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology (Fortress Press: 1993), vii-viii, xi, 31, 83-84.

 What would it mean, for instance, to understand sin as the refusal to share the basic necessities of survival with other bodies? to see Jesus of Nazareth as paradigmatic of God’s love for bodies? to interpret creation as all the myriad forms of matter bodied forth from God and empowered with the breath of life, the spirit of God? to consider ourselves as inspirited bodies profoundly interrelated with all other such bodies and yet having the special distinction of shared responsibility with God for the well-being of our planet? Such a focus causes us to see differently, to see dimensions of the relation of God and the world that we have not seen before.

. . . Incarnation (the belief that God is with us here on this earth) [goes] beyond Jesus of Nazareth to include all matter. God is incarnated in the world. . . . [This] suggests that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves, for God is the breath or spirit that gives life to the billions of different bodies that make up God’s body. But God is also the source, power, and goal of everything that is, for the creation depends utterly upon God. . . .

What postmodern science is telling us—that the universe is a whole and that all things, living and nonliving, are interrelated and interdependent—has been, for most of the world’s history, common knowledge. That is, people living close to the land and to other animals as well as to the processes that support the health of the land and living creatures have known this from their daily experience. We, a postindustrial, urbanized people, alienated from our own bodies and from the body of the earth, have to learn it, and most often it’s a strange knowledge. It is also strange because for the past several hundred years at least, Christianity, and especially Protestant Christianity, has been concerned almost exclusively with the salvation of individual human beings, (primarily their “souls”), rather than with the liberation and well-being of the oppressed, including not only oppressed human beings, body and soul (or better, spirit), but also the oppressed earth and all its life-forms.

In the model of the universe as God’s body, not only does postmodern science help us understand the unity and diversity of the body in liberating ways, but divine embodiment makes sacred all embodiment: neither perspective alone is as rich as both.

The universe itself can be understood as the primary revelation of the divine. —Thomas Berry [1]

The Divine Presence is happening in, through, and amidst every detail of life. . . . [It] penetrates all that exists. Everything in virtue of coming into existence is in relationship to this Source. —Thomas Keating [2]

The incarnation of God did not only happen in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. It began approximately 14 billion years ago with a moment that we now call “The Big Bang” or what some call “The Great Radiance.” At the birth of our universe, God materialized and revealed who God is. Ilia Delio writes: “Human life must be traced back to the time when life was deeply one, a Singularity, whereby the intensity of mass-energy exploded into consciousness.” [3] This Singularity provides a solid basis for inherent reverence, universal sacrality, and a spiritual ecology that transcends groups and religions.

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) stated, “The immense diversity and pluriformity of this creation more perfectly represents God than any one creature alone or by itself.” [4] However, most Christians thought humans were the only creatures that God cared about, and all else—animals, plants, light, water, soil, minerals—was just “food” for our own sustenance and enjoyment. I do not believe that the Infinitely Loving Source we call God could be so stingy and withholding, and only care about one species—unless that care would lead to care for everything else too, which I would call full consciousness. That is the unique human gift.

God created millions of creatures for millions of years before Homo sapiens came along. Many of these beings are too tiny for us to see or have yet to be discovered; some have seemingly no benefit to human life; and many, like the dinosaurs, lived and died long before we did. Why did they even exist? A number of the Psalms say that creation exists simply to reflect and give glory to God (e.g., Psalm 104). The deepest meaning of creation and creatures is their naked existence itself. God has chosen to communicate God’s very Self in multitudinous and diverse shapes of beauty, love, truth, and goodness, each of which manifests another facet of the Divine. (See Job 38-39, Wisdom 13:1-9, Romans 1:20.) Once you can see this, you live in an enchanted and spiritually safe world.

Christians have gotten ourselves into a muddle by not taking incarnation and creation as the body of God seriously. As theologian Sallie McFague writes, “Salvation is the direction of creation, and creation is the place of salvation.” [5] All is God’s place, which is our place, which is the only and every place.

I hope that our very suffering now, our crowded presence in this nest that we have largely fouled, will bring us together politically and religiously. The Earth and its life systems, on which we all entirely depend, still have the potential to convert us to a universal maturity. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. There are no Native, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim versions of the universal elements. The periodic table is the same in every country, or as Shakespeare and musician Mandisa expressed it, we all bleed the same. Animals do not care whether they are on the Mexican or the American side of our delusional wall

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