Whilst rummaging through some old note books earlier today I came across this beautiful quotation from Teilhard de Chardin’s Hymn of the Universe. Years ago he was recommended to me by the Anglican Chaplain to London University. At the time I was going through a period of doubt and uncertainty about God. I was seventeen when I went up to London to read for a medical degree at Guy’s . Here is the quotation.
” 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.
(Page 19 of Hymn of the Universe.)
In the 60’s Fr Teilhard was much in vogue especially among Anglicans. A few years ago I made a pilgrimage to Clermont – Ferrand where he was born.
De Chardin was simultaneously a man of the earth and a man of God. His entire life was a continual study of, alternatively and together, the one and the other; geology and palaeontology on the on hand and, and philosophy and theology on the other. On both sides he made a valuable contribution to knowledge. However his unique and enduring achievement is to have brought earth and heaven together in a bold and imaginative and deeply realized synthesis. It was profoundly realized in the sense that it took account of all the facts and faced all the difficulties, theoretical and practical involved in his great enterprise.
At the time his views were largely rejected by his Church, but to-day there is further need to study them. His synthesis is very germane to the holistic, ecological, post- modern and global ideas of to-day. Fr Teilhard’s strong life and earth affirming spirituality is only rarely and fully grasped and comprehended. It is his spirituality above all, the strength and inspirational power of his spiritual vision that needs to be better known. It can give so much to so many and answer many question that thinking people are asking to-day.
The following is an excerpt from the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
“Teilhard’s attempts to combine Christian thought with modern science and traditional philosophy aroused widespread interest and controversy when his writings were published in the 1950s. Teilhard aimed at a metaphysic of evolution, holding that it was a process converging toward a final unity that he called the Omega point. He attempted to show that what is of permanent value in traditional philosophical thought can be maintained and even integrated with a modern scientific outlook if one accepts that the tendencies of material things are directed, either wholly or in part, beyond the things themselves toward the production of higher, more complex, more perfectly unified beings. Teilhard regarded basic trends in matter – gravitation, inertia, electromagnetism, and so on – as being ordered toward the production of progressively more complex types of aggregate. This process led to the increasingly complex entities of atoms, molecules, cells, and organisms, until finally the human body evolved, with a nervous system sufficiently sophisticated to permit rational reflection, self-awareness, and moral responsibility. While some evolutionists regard man simply as a prolongation of the Pliocene fauna – an animal more successful than the rat or the elephant – Teilhard argued that the appearance of man brought an added dimension into the world. This he defines as the birth of reflection: animals know, but man knows that he knows; he has “knowledge to the square.”