From the dawn of our species, what we know about the universe has come from the power of observation, that is, what we can observe in a light-filled universe. In the 13th-century Oxford theologian Robert Grosseteste described the beginning of all physical life from light. One of his major works De Luce begins with God's creation of a single point of light which, through expansion and extension, he claimed, evoked the entire physical order into existence. The expansion of light replicating itself infinitely in all directions, he speculated, is the basis of the created world. Grosseteste was not too far from modern physics.
Speaking of God
Sister theologians and biblical scholars explore the quest for God in light of the global reality.
Terrorism in Paris, flooding in Bangladesh, Ebola in Africa, family violence everywhere. The suffering in our world is of such magnitude that each of us must find a way of dealing with it or accommodating it within our meaning-making scheme. Some people look for someone to blame and often that someone is God.
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year to slow down and reflect on the great mystery of God among us. This year I was reflecting how God shows up unexpectedly in people we might otherwise pass by.
Laudato Si' is overly ambitious in trying to address the major problems of our world, including economic, technological and environmental problems. By offering glimpses of a new theology without revisiting the doctrines of the church in light of the new science, the document falls short of providing a reasonable theological ground for change.
Beatrice Bruteau was a brilliant woman, but only a few people know of her work. She was a contemplative scholar with a unique combination of intellectual gifts — philosophy, mathematics, natural sciences, psychology — and she brought these gifts to bear on her penetrating insights on evolution and human becoming, which she described in several seminal books.
The lesson here concerns the power of true dialog, which has the potential for transforming each of the partners as they come to deeper and deeper understandings of the other. Women of the church ought, then, seek and accept opportunities for dialog related to important ecclesial issues.
Because the law of belief (lex credendi) is the law of life (lex vivendi), there is a deep connection between ancient religious prayers, beliefs and rituals at the heart of our ecological disconnectedness. What we profess in faith, the language used to express those beliefs, and the structure of worship that ritualizes those beliefs, are all wired into our religious DNA. We are programmed for heaven above not an earth in evolution; God up above not God up ahead.
In the coming weeks, Pope Francis will release his new encyclical on the environment. Bloggers and pundits alike have been speculating on what exactly the pope will say, while social justice advocates are almost dancing in the streets, exuberant that the highest ranking official of the church is taking Catholic social teaching seriously.
Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has been very generous with his words. There have been addresses, homilies, conversations, phone calls, interviews and writings, including an apostolic exhortation on “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium). Still, the pope has been silent, or very reticent on certain questions.
We expect nature to be fixed and predictable; yet, we are constantly challenged by nature’s subtle playfulness. Buddhists speak of nature’s impermanence. Things change from moment to moment, never ceasing in the endless flow of life. The most apt word to describe nature is relationship. Life is relational all the way back to the Big Bang. A modern commentary on the Big Bang might begin: “In the beginning is relationship and out of energized relationships new life emerges.”