Angelic power is truly cosmic in its range according to the Thomistic account. On every level in the hierarchy of created being, angelic agency has a proper function to fulfill in accordance with the designs of divine wisdom. Although creativity cannot belong to them [since only God can create from nothing] angels are nevertheless the chief ministers employed by God in the governance of the universe, in securing His own glory and in distributing His goodness to all creation. Read here
Thus the angels in the icon give a cosmic or universal feel to the Sacred Heart which is very much in keeping with a Thomist perspective on the ‘abyss of virtues’. Good...
However, it was then that it struck me that, despite the medieval feel of the icon it is very definitely not a representation of a medieval world view. What Ian had captured here, using a very ancient language was in fact a very modern world view: it has a sense of a dynamic, changing and evolving cosmos.
Acquinas accepted a static geo-centric Aristotelian view of the world and its place in the universe. It is precisely this medieval view of creation which Aquinas advances which Teilhard is seeking to move us beyond. A new cosmology requires a new Christology in which the universe itself is understood as centred on Christ as the Alpha and Omega.
In many ways Teilhard is seeking to do in the twentieth century what Acquinas had done in the thirteenth. Acquinas brilliantly demonstrated how the Christian religion could integrate into its teachings the knowledge of the ancients, especially Aristotle (‘the philosopher’) as well as the new sources of knowledge. He showed how faith and reason, science and Christianity could be reconciled. The genius of Acquinas was that he gave the Church a way of thinking and talking about the gospel which was relevant to the medieval world. However, as the static - Aristotelian - view of creation was challenged, so the position of the Church in relation to faith and reason, science and Christianity was eroded and became less and less relevant. Wildiers put it nicely in his book on Teilhard when he draws attention to the Teilhard’s belief that :
Theology remain true to a centuries-old tradition by expressing Christian doctrine in a language likely to be understood by men and women of today. St Augustine proclaimed the Christian revelation in the language of his century, against a background of the Platonism prevailing at that time. St Thomas Acquinas formulated the dogmas of Christianity within the framework of the resurgent Aristotlean science and philosophy. In each century theology has known how to talk the language required to enable her message to be understood… in earlier centuries the only way in which theologians could think of and represent God’s becoming man was within the framework of a static view of the world. Now that it is evident to every thinking person that we live in an organically evolving world, the believer can only conceive of the Incarnation in the setting of this new world view..(N.M. Wildiers, An Introduction to Teilhard de Chardin, Fontana,1968:122)
Teilhard was no theologian. But, of course, he had been well-schooled in Acquinas, and the world view that he was seeking to bring about was, without doubt, a direct challenge to the static Thomist view of creation which Acquinas had borrowed from Aristotle. (In his day, the last word on cosmology.) BUT, Teilhard’s aim, was as Wildiers argues, not to construct an original ‘theology’, but merely to provide some bricks which in his view could be of use for constructing a theology for the future and without which no adequate theology was in future going to be possible’.
I think this is the point. Teilhard is not asking us to adopt a new theology. On the contrary: he wants us to think about theology in a way which takes account of what we know now about the universe. Like Acquinas, Teilhard believed that because the universe is God’s creation nothing – absolutely nothing – that we discover about God’s creation can serve to subvert our belief in God. Indeed, science reveals the wonder of creation in a way which goes far beyond Aristotle and Acquinas. At the time he was writing many were concerned that evolution was wholly incompatible with scripture. Of course, some like Blessed John Newman were not the least bit troubled by what evolution implied: but many were and still are ( for some strange reason).
|F.C. Copleston S.J.|
… coperation on the part of heterogeneous material things clearly points to the existence of an extrinsic author of this cooperation, who operates with and end in view. If Acquinas had lived in the days of the evolutionary hypothesis, he would doubtless have argued that this hypothesis supports rather than invalidates the conclusion of [his] argument. F.C. Copleston, Acquinas, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1961 (122)
Teilhard does not in any way abandon the view that creation has a direction –he is, like Acquinas, wholly teleological. The universe has a point, a direction, and a purpose. Hence, Copleston argues that Acquinas would have been quite at home adopting an evolutionary position. In this sense, I think it is correct and entirely plausible to argue that Teilhard although abandoning the literal reading of Genesis ( and that has theological implications) and the Aristolean view of the universe, he is actually showing us that we do not need to abandon Acquinas, so much as up-date his cosmology. We need to fill in the missing piece of that moon. The Body and Heart of Christ have to be understood in a new and far less static / earth-bound way.
Teilhard may well be read as being anti-Thomist in terms of what he has to say about original sin and evolution, and in his own time that was how many - like Garrigou-Lagrange - did read him, but one thing is not in doubt: Teilhard shared with St. Thomas and St Bonaventure and Saint Clare of Assisi and St Juliana of Liege who all feature in the window to be found in Corpus Christi a deep love and devotion to the Eucharist and to the Body of Christ as manifested in the Blessed Sacrament. With them he shared a belief in the true and real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Of that there can be no doubt. Indeed, such was his belief in real presence of Christ in the bread and wine which are transformed in the mass that he realised that it must be understood and could only be understood, as a profoundly cosmic event. If it is not, then the Blessed Sacrament is nothing. But for Teilhard the Body of Christ was everything.
'At every moment the Eucharistic Christ controls, from the point of view of the organization of the Pleroma..the whole movement of the universe..' The Divine Milieu.
'Across the enormity of time and the disconcerting multiplicity of individuals, one operation is going on - the incorporation of the elect in Christ; one thing is being made - the Mystical Body of Christ -from all the spiritual powers scattered around the world.' The Divine Milieu.
'Christ has a cosmic body that extends throughout the whole universe'. Cosmic life.