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Mysticism Laudato Si’

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The Mysticism of Laudato Si’18

HEALING A SICK PLANET

The sickness of Planet Earth leads to the sickness of its inhabitants, and especially the poor. The pope says:The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, the water, the air, and in all forms of life’ (2). ‘The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth’ (21). ‘We need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair’ (61).

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The Mysticism of Laudato Si’17

MYSTICISM WITH OPEN EYES

We enter here into the painful side of mysticism. Genuine mystics are moved by what they see, whether it be painful or pleasant. To contemplate is to take ‘a long, loving look at the real’ whether the real is beautiful or disfigured. The mystic tries to find God not only in what is radiant and lovely, but in the distortion of all which God made good. God was in disguise in the passion of Jesus and is likewise in the contemporary passion of Sister Earth.

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The Mysticism of Laudato Si’16

 OUR COMMON  HOME

It is worthwhile to explore the riches of the pope’s chosen term for Mother Earth—Our Common Home. The word ‘home’ stirs up in us a world of memories and emotions. If you have had a happy childhood, home is the place for which you feel the greatest affection: it blended good relationships with the particularities of the place where you began your life. As Elvis Presley has it, Home is where the heart is. The lyrics run: ‘My heart is anywhere you are; anywhere you are is home’. This resonates with the saying, ‘It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home’.

The pope says: ‘Our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life, and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us’ (1).

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The Mysticism of Laudato Si’  15

LOVING STEWARDSHIP

Now that our reflections on the rich mysticism which underpins Laudato Si ‘ have cleansed ‘the doors of our perception’ we turn to the wretched plight of Sister Earth and allow an emotional response to well up in our hearts. Such a response, the pope says, is not naïve romanticism, for it affects our choices.

The pope says: ‘If we approach nature without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of ruthless exploiters… But if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then care will well up spontaneously in us (11). Responsible care of creation is an essential part of the Christian faith’ (64).

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The Mysticism of Laudato Si’ 14

 SUMMARY

At the end of this part of the book, it may help to gather some of the ‘mystical’ passages in Laudato Si’. Taken together they can suitably overwhelm you!

‘The divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet ‘(9).

’Each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous. The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, God’s boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is a caress of God’ (84).

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The Mysticism of Laudato Si’ 13

 DIVINIZATION

At the Offertory of the Eucharist, the priest puts a drop of wine into the chalice and says quietly, ’May we become sharers in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share our humanity’. What a statement this is, to affirm that we are sharers in Christ’s divinity!’ An outsider at the back of the church might expect a cheer from the congregation or at least a heartfelt ‘Amen’. But there is no response: Mass goes steadily on. The Western Church makes little of divinization, whereas it is a rich theme in the Eastern Church.

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Laudato Si’ Mysticism 11

THE EUCHARIST

The Eucharist is embedded in history: it stretches all the way back to the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago and also points forward to the divinisation of all things, the great cosmic banquet, when everything will rejoice together.

So the Pope can say

‘The Eucharist joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation. In the bread of the Eucharist, creation is projected towards divinisation, towards the holy wedding feast, towards unification with the Creator himself’ (236).

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Laudato Si’ Mysticism 10

DEEP INCARNATION

Scripture scholars use terms like ‘deep incarnation’ to indicate that Jesus’ roots are not on the surface level of things: instead they are embedded in the earth which began so long ago. St John does not say that the Word was made man or was made human; he goes deeper and says that the Word was made flesh. Flesh meant ‘all that is created’. Under divine guidance, matter evolved so that at the right moment, Jesus emerges as a child of the earth, as Mary and all of us are. The Gospels can emphasise that Mary’s child is ‘of the Holy Spirit’ because the Spirit has been active in creation from the beginning, and is responsible for our coming-to-be. So what is said of Jesus refers to us too: as his siblings we all share in his ‘success story’. Deep incarnation also implies the deep divinisation of our material world.

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Laudato Si’ Mysticism 9

JESUS COMES FROM WITHIN

Christian belief is that Jesus comes from God: he is divine; God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God. With that firmly in place we can explore the statement that Jesus comes from within creation. The Pope says: ‘He comes from within, that we might find him in this world of ours’ (236).

Think of a daffodil bulb planted in late autumn. It doesn’t look anything spectacular, and it lies passive in cold and dark soil until springtime: then it begins to unfold according to its own mysterious laws of growth. At the right time its blossom appears in all its glory.

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Laudato Si’ Mysticism 8

WHERE DOES JESUS COME FROM?

Towards the end of Laudato Si’there is a magnificent paragraph, all too short, on the Eucharist. Every line is rich, and we will unfold its meaning over the next few reflections. The theologian von Balthasar says, ‘the cosmos is the monstrance of God’. Pope Francis develops that insight: he says that nature is not simply an outer frame for the sacred, but is itself sacred and reveals the divine. He then goes deeper yet: he says that Jesus, the Son of God, emerges from within creation.That challenges our imaginations! The Pope says:

‘He comes, not from above, but from within’ (236).

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Laudato Si’ Mysticism 7

 DIVINE MANIFESTATIONS

Our topic is the mysticism underpinning Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’. We try to make this mysticism our own. In other words, we try to meet God in nature’s limitless manifestations. A flower, a fly, a snail, a sunbeam, a shadow, a silhouette, a cloud, is more than just itself. Each of these simple things is a manifestation of God, and we are invited to catch on to their revelatory quality. Before being a problem to be cleared away, a messy pile of autumn leaves is a poem! Nightfall is not simply a moment when you have to turn on the light: deeper down it is a moment for awe, which leads us into mystery, and there God resides.

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Laudato Si’ Mysticism 6

MYSTICS IN THE MAKING

This is our sixth reflection on the mysticism of Laudato Si’. Look back for a few moments on what is happening to your heart as you move along. Are you becoming a mini-mystic by now? This is important, and also thrilling! The theologian Karl Rahner remarked in the 1980’s that ‘the Christian of the future will be a mystic, or will not be a Christian at all.’

You may not be a person who spends much time alone with God—which is how we used to think of mystics—but as you contemplate nature is your capacity for wonder being enriched?

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Laudato Si’ Mysticism 5

 THE PRECIOUS BOOK OF CREATION

Perhaps we used to think that spirit and matter were opposed to one another, but Laudato Si’ stresses that the Spirit is active in all matter in order to bring it home to God. Matter is spirit-endowed; it has vast potentiality; it is ‘on the move’. The theory of evolution is now accepted by the Church, with the added religious dimension that it originates in the Spirit, who has been playing in creation over some fourteen billion years, kneading and moulding it like clay, creating the most beautiful and extraordinary diversity of species. Each of these carries the stamp of life, which is the mark of the enlivening Spirit.

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Laudato Si’ Mysticism 4

THE HOLY SPIRIT

A fundamental theme of Laudato Si’ is that everything is interdependent, so wherever we stumble on this interdependence, we are catching on to the work of the Holy Spirit, because the role of the Spirit is to unify and to facilitate creativity. We tend to think that the first Pentecost occurred after Jesus’ resurrection; but was the Spirit unemployed until two thousand years ago? No, the first Pentecost took place at the beginning of creation: the Spirit of God, brooding over the formless cosmos, gave it shape and meaning. God made us humans come alive by breathing the Spirit into random dust (Gen 2:7). As the Liturgy says, ‘The Spirit of God fills the whole world’. We live in a world reverberating with the Spirit!

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Laudato Si’ Mysticism 3

 DIVINE MEETING PLACES

The perspective of Laudato Si’ is that every molecule of creation is sacred, and that through each single one God’s love is revealed. Creation is God’s first self-revelation, and it reveals God’s limitless love and affection for us. It is as if God were saying, ’Let’s pull out the stops, so everyone on the face of the earth will be able to see our love. All they have to do is to look at what is surrounding them!’  God sees all creation as good. When our impaired vision is corrected we come to see the world as a loving gift, and so are drawn towards God, and then towards care of the gift of creation that has been entrusted to our care. This is the goal of Laudato Si’. From this 20/20 mystical vision of nature as divine gift, our care for the earth will flow.

 

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Mysticism Laudato Si’ 2

THE CARESS OF GOD

The more we come to love nature in all its detail, the more we will want to care for it, because we care for the things we love. Here’s a poet’s vision of a single flower–a narcissus–coming into bloom:

When from a world of mosses and of ferns

At last the narcissus lifted a tuft of five-pointed stars

And dangled them in the atmosphere,

Then every molecule of creation jumped and clapped its hands:

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Laudato Si’ Mysticism 1

FRESH EYES FOR 2018

Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’ on Care for Our Common Home makes painful reading. It challenges us to change our flawed attitudes to Earth, and such change is hard. But behind the tough news is a mysticism, a faith-filled way of looking at Creation with ever-deeper love. Over the coming year we will explore this profound way of viewing creation. Then the pope’s challenges to us will be charged with new urgency, because as we come to love our Earth more, we will be drawn to defend it better.

 

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