Monday, May 10, 2010

Hymn of the Universe by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

All of the talk last week on geology reminded me of this picture I took a few years ago of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in Wyoming,

And, some of Jim Skehan's quotations from Teilhard got me interested in finding out more about his (Teilhard's) "Mass on the World." I found a link to Chapter 1 of the book Hymn of the Universe and am putting down just a few quotes to get you interested.  It is a gifted, spirit-filled piece of writing.  Teilhard wrote it while doing geological (paleontology) research in China in the 1920's and is truly incarnational in its view of the world.  Teilhard starts with an "Offertory":

Since once again, Lord — though this time not in the forests of the Aisne but in the steppes of Asia — I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labours and sufferings of the world.
Over there, on the horizon, the sun has just touched with light the outermost fringe of the eastern sky. Once again, beneath this moving sheet of fire, the living surface of the earth wakes and trembles, and once again begins its fearful travail. I will place on my paten, O God, the harvest to be won by this renewal of labour. Into my chalice I shall pour all the sap which is to be pressed out this day from the earth’s fruits.
My paten and my chalice are the depths of a soul laid widely open to all the forces which in a moment will rise up from every corner of the earth and converge upon the Spirit. Grant me the remembrance and the mystic presence of all those whom the light is now awakening to the new day.
Offering ourselves to God through our labors is something I keep forgetting when I am not "employed." For a few years, while working at the Lab in California, I would walk down hill to pick up my van pool.  The walk was through a cemetery and had views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.  On sunny mornings it was easy to thank God for all I had been given and to pray a walking meditation.  But even on foggy mornings, the memory of the views was still there and God's presence in that silent place gave me joy in a wonderful start to my day.  At the bottom of the hill was Fat Apples with hot coffee and wonderful pastries to eat while waiting for the van to show up.

 My habit when I drove myself to work was to recite the Jesus Prayer (Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner).  It helped the 40-mile commute go by quickly and make the sometimes insane traffic bearable.  And also, at certain times of year, I would marvel in the sun coming up over the hills. When I got to my office I would turn on the computer and say the daily office with The Mission of St. Clare. I've learned that routines make it so much easier to pray and meditate.

One of the rules of the Society of Ordained Scientists is that we pray for each other and there is a daily list of names.  This year I'm on day 10, which is today.  It is wonderful to know that I am being prayed for on the tenth of each month along with Stig, Michael and Robin.  I keep the card on my bedside table so when I do morning prayer I can pray for them.  I still use the Mission of St. Clare site.
For me, my God, all joy and all achievement, the very purpose of my being and all my love of life, all depend on this one basic vision of the union between yourself and the universe. Let others, fulfilling a function more august than mine, proclaim your splendours as pure Spirit; as for me, dominated as I am by a vocation which springs from the inmost fibres of my being, I have no desire, I have no ability, to proclaim anything except the innumerable prolongations of your incarnate Being in the world of matter; I can preach only the mystery of your flesh, you the Soul shining forth though all that surrounds us.


motheramelia said...

I realized that the first quotation is precisely what Jim Skehan has in his second meditation in "Praying with Teilhard de Chardin." I just looked that over today. However the whole chapter, which is all of the Mass on the World, is well worth reading.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Amelia, I say the Jesus prayer during my walk. You've given me the idea to say the prayer when I'm stuck in traffic or behind a very slow driver whom I can't pass. Better by far than cuss words.

Teilhard de Chardin's Offertory is beautiful.

paulcarr said...

For Teilhard, there was no separation between the material world of science and the spiritual reality of religion. The material world was created by God, and thereby sacred. He learned about his Creator by studying the geology of the planet He had brought into being.

Paul H. Carr

motheramelia said...

Mimi, I love the Offertory too.

Paul, I think his experience as a scientist and faithful person is one that resonates with those of us who share those two disciplines.