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Teilhard de Chardin: Apostle of the Incarnate God – P2 (blog by Matthew Wright)

By guest contributor, Matthew Wright. This is the second part of a 2-part essay.

teilhard250_2Teilhard saw this forward movement at the heart of the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation—God becoming flesh and form in Jesus of Nazareth. The Incarnation, however, was not an isolated, one-time event, but rather an ongoing process, carried forward uniquely in each human being. In Teilhard’s words: “each of us is our own little microcosm in which the Incarnation is wrought independently with degrees of intensity and shades that are incommunicable.” Each instance of Incarnation, however, while unique, is not discrete, but part of a single, vast unfolding, initiated in Jesus and continuing as an awakening and expanding collectivity: an organic, growing Body of Christ. “Christ,” Teilhard wrote, “is not yet fully formed: he has not yet gathered about him the last folds of his robe of flesh and of love…” In this light, Christianity becomes not simply a path of ascent or return to God, but a path flowing out from God, as God flows more and more fully into form.

While the New Testament authors could not have framed this movement in evolutionary terms, Teilhard found in them a profound sense of the forward momentum that drove his own vision. St. Paul spoke of the whole creation “groaning in labor pains” as it worked to bring forth something new and glorious, “the revealing of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-22). Teilhard stepped in and connected the evolutionary dots. Charting the course of evolution, he saw the development of a geosphere (the planet), a biosphere (organic life), and finally the emergence of what he called the noosphere—from the Greek nous, or mind—a sphere of conscious awareness, which finds its greatest outlet and expression in humanity.

For Teilhard, the next phase of evolution would be primarily within the noosphere, and it was here that he located the work of Christ: the initiation of a new phylum of love within the consciousness of the planet, unfolding as the deepening Incarnation of God. He wrote: “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, humankind will have discovered fire.” These energies of love, this fire, Teilhard believed, would drive the noosphere into its next evolutionary leap: the “christification” of the human species.

For Teilhard, the whole movement was towards a convergence on what he called “Christ-Omega” or the “Omega Point.” The deeply personal, intimate, nondual center of the universe, what we might call the “Heart of God”—revealed for Teilhard in the life of Jesus—was also the point of convergence towards which the whole planet was moving. Again, he turned to the words of St. Paul: “With all wisdom and insight God has made known to us the mystery of God’s will, […] a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:8-10): a convergence of spheres, a coincidence of opposites, the union of the human and divine in the unfolding Body of Christ. This convergence he identified with what has traditionally been called the “Second Coming of Christ”—Christ’s coming in fullness and glory through the noosphere of the planet.

Teilhard de Chardin readingToday we might identify this next evolutionary phase as the emergence of “nondual consciousness” at increasing levels within the noosphere: a deepening, lived awareness of the profound unity at the heart of existence. This will not, however, be a dissolution out of matter and back into a pre-existent unity, but a movement forward, towards something new: an ultimately global expression of conscious unity in matter. Teilhard saw that for the first time in planetary history, evolution (heretofore operating unconsciously) had become conscious of itself in and through the human species. Now evolution is ours to guide, and our conscious efforts to advance the growing phylum of love within the life of our planet will determine our future.

Teilhard wrote towards the end of his life, “I can see quite clearly that the reason I can have influence does not come at all from what I have ‘invented,’ whatever that may be, but simply from the fact that I have found myself ‘resonating’ in the right way to a certain vibration, a certain human and religious note, which is now in the air everywhere.” During this Year of Teilhard de Chardin, we are being invited to move into this resonance, to further the growing phylum of love, to join this great apostle of the Incarnate God in the work of evolving our human family and our planet.

Teilhard states in the boldest terms what our work in this great work is: “it is no longer a matter of simply seeing God and allowing oneself to be enveloped and penetrated by God—we have to do more: we have to disclose God (or even in one sense of the word ‘complete’ God) ever more fully.” For Teilhard, each of our lives is potentially a deepening of the disclosure and a completing of the Incarnation of God. We serve—and become—this disclosure through the evolutionary energies of love. Teilhard knew that to arrive at the fullness of this work would take time, and looking back at the long history of cosmic and planetary evolution, that this time could be long. But he was not one to lose hope. Our current global crises he saw, not as signs of the end, but as the birth pains of a new beginning.

“Above all,” Teilhard wrote, “trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We would like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stage of instability—and that it may take a very long time. Above all, trust in the slow work of God.”

And so I pray: May we not only trust, but join in, the slow work of God, and may the deepening Incarnation of the Heart of God, through us, flow into form. Amen.

Part 1 of this essay is available here.

An earlier version of this article appeared in Contemplative Journal. Follow Matthew’s monthly column at Contemplative Journal.

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