Thursday, 8 September 2011

Teilhard’s Litany: (6) 'The Christic.'

 On the front of his holy picture of the Sacred Heart, the second line – after the God of Evolution is ‘The Christic, the Trans-Christ.’  The Sacred Heart is: The Christic and what he terms the ‘Trans’ Christ.  As Sion Cowell notes , Teilhard used the term ‘trans’ to express the idea of ‘qualitative metamorphosis following the crossing of a threshold’ (S. Cowell, The Teilhard Lexicon, p32).  I like Cowell’s use of the word metamorphosis here because so often in Teilhard he is thinking more like a geologist than a theologian : after all he was far more of a geologist than ever he was a theologian.  Not that he ever thought of himself as a theologian.  So when he says ‘Trans-Christ’ he means that we need to see the Sacred Heart in terms like metamorphosis: the Sacred Heart is like a rock that has undergone a fundamental change in its structure  and composition and properties.  The Christic is the Sacred Heart in a metamorphised state.  To be a little geological here – from what I remember from school!  The Sacred Heart which was the object of his mother’s devotion  may be seen as a kind of ‘protolith’ : like shale or mudstone before being subjected to foliation.  I think that ‘The Christic’ as  the ‘Trans Christ’ is  the Sacred Heart metamorphosed by the heat and pressure of thew idea of evolution understood through the writings of St Paul.   It is a symbol which has been radically transformed by our understanding of  the cosmos as an evolutionary process in which Christ completes, fills and unifies and becomes the centre of all  creation: God all in all.  

Teilhard saying Mass during WW 1 - probably Douaumont. 

The Sacred Heart, as  ‘The Christic’ - the Sacred Heart as the great Consumer of the Universe - is therefore is a symbol of the Christ for whom the cosmos was created and which is in the process of becoming the final centre of the cosmos.

In its simplest sense his prayer card is about inviting the Sacred Heart to consume and complete us , to centre us, to become our centre. Our prayer is to be united with this Christic energy which both completes us as individuals and  unites  or universalises us within the divine centre. When we read his litany  it  is, I think, necessary to read it in the context of his essay  ‘The Christic’ which was complete in March 1955 – the month before his death in April that year.  I always find it very sad to read as it is really his final attempt to sum-up what he believed.  He was living in exile and it was a painful period of his life and  one can sense this in ‘The Christic’.  But, through it all Teilhard is able to think clearly and express his beliefs in a powerful way.  

In simple terms (!!) Teilhard sees two dimension of evolution: cosmic involving matter, space and time and Christic which is about the spiritual  evolution of creation.  He believed that mankind had to develop a cosmic sense - that is a sense of how life is interconnected and woven into a fabric across time and space. This cosmic sense is vital if we are to understand how we are part of a great creation and that humanity has a critical part to play in this evolving cosmos.  But we also have to develop a christic sense - a sense of how Christ is the centre and goal of the cosmos.  The Christic evolution is the process by which Christ – the Christ of revelation  and the Omega of Evolution – is consuming and being consumed by the universe.  When we see the Sacred Heart as the Christic we have to reflect upon how he is ‘gathering up’ all creation.  As the Christic the Sacred Heart is radiating and penetrating all things.   Teilhard sees this in terms of other aspects of evolution: Cosmogenesis – evolution of the cosmos ;  biogenesis – evolution of life; Noogenesis – the evolution of mind and spirit; and finally Christogenesis  - which is the process of Christ  transforming and transubstantiating the universe.  The Christic is the culmination of evolution.  In the Christic Christ becomes all in all.  The Universe become Christified.  It becomes consumed by Christ and Christ is consumed by the universe!

I am no Teilhard expert, so I can only write about how I respond to the idea of the Sacred Heart as ‘The Christic’.  And to me, when I contemplate the Sacred Heart  as the Christic I am drawn inevitably and inexorably towards the Eucharist.  I think it is in the Eucharist we are given a glimpse into what  the Incarnation means for us personally, and for us as a species. I think when we reflect on the Christic – we realize the relevance of his vision of the future of Christianity.   Teilhard’s universe is a Christ centred universe which elevates the role of the Eucharist into truly cosmic and universal proportions.  In the Christic and in Christogenesis we see before us the dazzling image of

..the Eucharistic mystery itself, extended infinitely into a veritable universal transubstantiation, in which the words of the Consecration are applied not only to the sacrificial bread and wine but, mark you, to the mass of joys and sufferings produced by the Convergence of the World as it progresses.  And it is then, too, that there follow in consequence the possibilities of a universal Communion. (‘The Christic’, Heart of Matter, 94)

So, when we reflect on the Christianity of the future  it is – above all – the Eucharist which must be our focus.  As it was for Teilhard.  In the Eucharist  we have the essence of the Sacred Heart as the Christic: the assimilation of humanity by  Christ and the assimilated of Christ by humanity.  It is not just that we consume the body and blood of Christ, it is Christ who is consuming our body and our blood.   The idea of the Christic asks us to think of what this means on a more cosmic scale.  In the Eucharist the cosmic, the human and the christic all meet.

And this is fitting, since the Sacred Heart and the Eucharist have long been considered in terms of one another.    When we say ‘Sacred Heart, The Christic, unite us to yourself.’ we are therefore saying something wonderful and utterly awe inspiring.  We must reflect, therefore , when we contemplate the Sacred Heart on what Teilhard says in his ‘Introduction to the Christian Life.’ For it is the eucharist that we encounter ‘The Christic’ – ‘God’s unifying energy’

The eucharist belongs to an order of its own among the sacraments. It is the first of sacraments, or rather it is the one sacrament to which all the others are related; and this for the good reason that the axis of the Incarnation, that is to say of the creation, runs directly through the eucharist…All the communions of our lives are no more than successive instances or episodes of one single communion, of one and the same process of christification…..If, then all my own communions form but one single great communion, then all the communions of all men of all times, taken as one great whole, also add up to but one single and vast communion, coextensive in this case with the history of mankind.  This amounts to saying that when the eucharist is considered in the complete effecting of its operation, it is simply the expression and manifestation of God’s unifying energy applied to each spiritual atom of the universe.   To put it briefly, to adhere  to Christ in the eucharist is inevitably and ipso facto to incorporate ourselves a little more fully on each occasion in a Christogenesis, which is itself….is none other than the soul of universal cosmogenesis.   For the Christian who has understood this profound economy, and who at the same time is fully alive to the organic unity of the universe, to receive communion is not, accordingly, a sporadic, localized, particulate act.  When such a Christian communicates with the Host, he realizes that he is in contact with the very heart of evolution.  And vice, versa, he sees that if he is to come into contact  with the heart of the Host, he must necessarily communicate, by acceptance and fulfilment of his whole life, with the whole surface, the whole depth, the whole body of the world in evolution.  The eucharist is the sacrament of our life, experienced and mastered, in its individual modalities as well as in its cosmic extension: ‘super-communion’! ( 'Introduction to the Christian Life.’  in Christianity and Evolution, 1969: 166-7)

So, as we look deep into the Sacred Heart – into the white heat of its fire – we see there 'The Christic'. We see the eucharist actively consuming the universe and consuming and uniting us. We can ponder the mystery of becoming one in Christ and thereby becoming more ourselves.  We look into the heart of the mystery of  Christ uniting all things in himself and holding all things together. In the eucharist we have a taste of the final Parousia.   This is Christianity of the future: a Christianity inspired by a growing Christic sense and which will be manifested in a growing devotion to the eucharist as a truly cosmic event. ***
*** Benedict xvi has, of course, drawn attention to Teilhard's ideas on this point see earlier blog HERE As did Blessed John Paul see HERE

No comments:

Post a Comment