A cosmic feast: eight hours with Ilia Delio

Unsplash/Jeremy Thomas

Ten minutes into Franciscan Sr. Ilia Delio's talk at a contemporary spirituality retreat, I knew I was in trouble. How was I supposed to capture almost eight hours of brilliant insights in an 800-word blog?

The answer: I couldn't. So I just sat back and enjoyed a roller coaster ride through billions of years of cosmic evolution, with plunges into the history of science and philosophy and steep climbs into theology and mysticism.

I have heard Ilia speak on more than one occasion and have read many of her works. But with the crowd of almost 200, I was delighted with her brilliant teaching and sense of humor — who would have expected a stand-up comedienne to speak on "God, Evolution, and the Unfinished Self"? Our bodies were at Avila University in Kansas City, but our minds were roaming the universe.

Weaving together the thought of Jesuit Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Beatrice Bruteau, Etty Hillesum, the mystics, and concepts from quantum physics, biology and cosmology, Ilia explored with us the "unfinished self in light of evolution and the work of God in evolution."

First, we considered how "functionally schizophrenic" we are about science and religion — with our Cartesian worldview that completely separates them. Science speaks of a birthing universe; religion, of a fallen universe.

Since the nature of the universe is undivided wholeness, Ilia made the case that there actually is no catholicity (from two Greek words meaning "consciousness of the whole") without cosmology. We human beings are the way the universe reflects on itself, and through our minds and/or consciousness we are part of the undivided whole — we are "catholic"!

And Christianity is a religion of evolution; we are unfinished. Evolution is the rise of "within-ness" (consciousness) and "without-ness" (love), and consciousness and love are the dimensions of the universe.

Acknowledging that energy and matter are the same thing, we moved to the concept that matter is a web of relationships, so therefore, relationship is our deepest reality.

We find the spark of God in everything in the universe, down to the smallest subatomic particle. God as process, God as dynamism, as open to the new. A God who does new things is a source of the newness in the universe. God is the newest thing there is! God is process, evolution. Unchanging change!

Christ as Teilhard's Omega Point is the reason for the world. With Jesus emerges a new consciousness. If you are a fan of quantum physics, consider Christ as the strange attractor, the Eucharist as quantum entanglement.

Then Ilia brought us down to earth with a section on the promise and peril of technology, which used incorrectly takes the place of religion, distracts us from God and our environment, and leads to shallow thinking. "Where your mind is, there your treasure lies" — paraphrased but accurate!

We can actually use IT, intentional technology, as a progression toward more being, toward an "ultra-humanism" with more justice, more kindness, more peace and love.

She suggested that the road to the future is through the mystics, who cultivated a vast capacity for consciousness. They did "soul training" through fasting and prayers, silence, solitude and surrender.

We can awaken our brain through meditation, solitude, cyber-fasts, and building into our lives "slowed time" to just be. That will help us live in a higher level of consciousness and harness the energy of love. We need to accept incompleteness and recover our capacity for wonder and awe.

We can become receptive of love's gifts by benefiting from the 7 billion sacraments in the cosmos. (Each time we become aware of the goodness of God shining through, that's a sacrament.)

She demanded we stop resisting globalization, "planet-ization" and the convergence of world religions. Instead, we must move toward the new level of consciousness described by Teilhard as the noosphere — inter-thinking humanity.

In this way, we can become doorways for Christ-Omega to enter and transform the world. The Cosmic Christ unfolds in and through us. Evolution is not an option!

Ilia sums it up well in her latest column for Global Sisters Report:

"From a Christian perspective, to live in evolution is to make wholes out of partials, to risk, get involved, challenge the entrenched and fixed by finding new models of practice and beliefs that energize life in God."

But here's the quote that I am using as my personal takeaway from the whole experience:

"Life in God is to live on the cusp of wonder."

For the rest that won't fit into a blog, you are on your own. Investigate the columns that Ilia Delio has written for Global Sisters Report here, or enjoy one of her many books, such as Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, and Consciousness.

[Ursuline Sr. Michele Morek is Global Sisters Report's liaison to sisters in North America. Her email address is mmorek@ncronline.org.]