Monday, January 31, 2011

The One Being: Our Part in the Whole



“The knitting together of God and the world has just taken place
under our eyes in the domain of action.”
            ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (from The Divine Milieu)







Sometimes my mind wanders in church, and sometimes it explores. One Sunday morning there was a visiting priest at our church. He mentioned in his homily that he taught theology to the ninth graders at a college preparatory school. His custom, he told us, is to use Wednesday class time to discuss the scripture passages from the lectionary on the upcoming Sunday. As he delivered the homily, the priest came across as intelligent and genuine. I thought about how fortunate those students were to have such a gifted and knowledgeable teacher. I had the impression that this priest sees the importance of his task in teaching those young students. Surely, he sees his endeavors in light of the big picture, a great attribute for one in the teaching profession.

From there, my mind went from the teaching profession to other professions and jobs that we all go back to on Monday morning. I wondered how many people are able to grasp the vision of being a part of a great unified whole. How many of us in society are able to see our work, as Teilhard elaborates in The Divine Milieu, as contributing to the manifestation of God in the universe? Christianity can offer a picture of this unified whole of which we are all a part, and can help us make sense of it all. Such a view gives meaning to our individual endeavors within the corporate whole. Indeed, Teilhard’s spiritual classic presents such a picture.

Christianity, however, is not the only place to find that larger a view. The other major religions also give people a concept of the whole. Hassidic Judaism gives us the concept of tikkun olam (repair of the world), that we can be instruments to build up and to bring good into the world. Buddhism teaches that we are all part of one great phenomenon. Islam tells us that we all find completion and peace in submission to Allah, the Omnipotent and All Merciful. Indigenous earth-based religions affirm that we are all part of creation. Taoism teaches that everything occurs within the all-encompassing Tao – the essence, source and reason of all that is (Cf. the Greek logos [reason], translated “Word” in the New Testament: “In the beginning was the Word…, In the beginning was the Logos…, In the beginning was the Tao, and the Tao was with God, and the Tao was God”).

My mind continued to explore, that Sunday morning, as the order of service moved from homily to Eucharist. I observed how our worship can celebrate the oneness of all, and can demonstrate our role in building the world. In our church, we say the Nicene Creed affirming Christ’s “one being with the Father,” which is how we happen to express the Greek term homoousias, meaning “one substance.” The deeper truth is that there is, of course, only one substance in the universe. In the Eucharist, we dramatize the truth that the divine logos is spread throughout creation as we receive the “logos” and carry that realization into the world. When the service is ended, we are exhorted to “Go into the world in peace to do the work that God has given us to do.” Indeed, it is in that everyday work that we see “the knitting together of God and the world.”

Whatever your background, whatever traditions you hold, look to the wisdom you have inherited to see the one being, the one substance of the universe, the one world and your part in the whole.









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