The first surprise is that in our busy days, we hardly think of love. We have no time for love. Yet we receive love, otherwise we would have disappeared. Surprise yourself and read this
article. The entire universe is a blessing that gives glory to God.
In this article, I attempt to connect you and myself to the great surprises we have had in the past few weeks. From there I draw your attention to a reflection on the victory of Christ that surprises me more so in the natural phenomena whose mysteries are not fully understood yet and the ecstatic experiences of mystics who surpass my ordinary experience. I particularly remember the words of Maurice Zundel "God knelt before Man" to restore Man!
The canonization of two recent Popes in one day raised a lot of interest especially because of the rich work that each of them contributed to the world.
Pope John XXIII, elected in 1959, shocked the Catholic world when he announced his intention to convoke an Ecumenical Council in order to renew the Church, make her teachings understandable by a changing world, and seek unity of all Christians. John called himself "Your brother Joseph" when he invited leaders of other Churches and Christian communions not in union with the Catholic Church. He attributed the thought to a sudden inspiration by the Holy Spirit for a second Pentecost. The Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) lasted for 3 years starting in 1962 but the "Good Pope", known for his compassion and care for the ordinary persons, died from cancer in 1963. The Council was completed by Pope Paul VI described by Yves Congar as a saint. In his funeral the world (political and ordinary people) was mourning "Papa John", an old man of courage whose intercession between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. over the Cuban Crisis in 1961 helped avoid a military confrontation between the superpowers - a man who dared to challenge the "old guards of the Church as if she were a museum" for the Church is our living mother and is still delivering saints today as she did in ancient times.
Pope John Paul II, elected in 1978, was by contrast a determined man who sought to implement Vatican II with rigor and invigoration unknown in modern history. He is credited with initiating the World Youth Day and presiding over its activities in many countries; the re-evangelization program worldwide; his travels to most of the capitals of the world in order to strengthen his Christian brothers; his visits to many Christian Patriarchs and leaders as well as his encounter with Jewish and Muslim leaders visiting their sacred places in his historic pilgrimage in the Middle East; his reaffirmation of moral values in sexual ethics; his pro-life stance where, in collaboration with Islamic countries and other traditional countries, he defeated the radical program of contraceptives promoted at the U.N. Conference on Population held in Cairo in 1993; his interfaith meetings and prayers with representatives of other confessions; his beatification and canonization of servants of God more than all his predecessors together; his initiation of collaborative conferences with scientists and scholars and his official recognition of the Theory of Evolution; and above all his solemn apology in 2000 for sins by sons and daughters of the Catholic Church throughout its long history. When he died of illness complications in 2005 after 26 years on the See of Rome, it seemed that no one pope could ever fill the shoes of John Paul the Great.
Earlier on Easter Sunday April 20, 2014, Christians in Churches around the world sang hymns of victory to Christ who in the Byzantine liturgy "has risen from the dead and by his death he has crushed death and has given life to those who are in the tombs." The words "death" and "tomb" are significant since every human person wants to survive death somehow. The bravest of us and a martyr, Fr. Frans van der Lugt, S.J. murdered on April 7 in Homs, Syria had recorded a speech two years earlier in which he pleaded with the killers to let Syrians live and let him survive too in spite of his age. He had no resentment against the conspirators. In fact, all sentient beings such as plants, fish and animals, that were studied show a basic need for survival of death in spite of the Darwinian Principle "Survival for the fittest"! And anthropologists and historians insist that in spite of competition and ugly wars, collaboration was crucial to the survival of humanity. We may learn here from history how important is the arrow of love, central to Christianity.
Probably the most daring and evolutionary interpretation of the victory of Christ and his Resurrection come from the pen of Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit scientist-theologian whose ideas were used in the writings of many subsequent scholars including Joseph Ratzinger (a top theologian at Vatican II who in 2005 was elected to succeed John Paul II as Benedict XVI) on the truth of the Resurrection of Christ. Teilhard wrote extensively on the development of the cosmos, life in its different forms and the emergence of the human mind by God's free love.
If we think of the Resurrection of Christ in terms of the mystical theology of Teilhard de Chardin, we will conclude that Christ's fullness of victory will not take place until the "Omega Point" or in other words until the "cosmic" Christ himself has restored creation to his Father. This is when we are united to God in the New Jerusalem and when Christ utters the words "Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21: 5). The Triune God then is "all in all." In the twenty centuries since the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, the Holy Spirit has been working in the hearts of many who long to return to their source. It was illustrated by Christ in the Parable of the Prodigal Son who, although he returned out of self-interest after losing everything, was surprised by the outpouring love and reception of his dad.
What surprises me most is the fascinating group of mystics and saints throughout history such as St. Anthony of Egypt, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Francis of Assisi with his stigmata or the wounds of Christ that he accepted for love of all , St. Gertrude the Great who at the age of 26 started receiving private revelations from Christ, St. Rita of Cascia who loved her husband in spite of his unfaithfulness and loved her children although in their evil thoughts they wanted to avenge the killing of their dad, St. Teresa of Avila a mystic who spoke to Christ as to a friend, St. Jean-Baptiste Vianney of Ars, and, not the least, St. Thérèse of Lisieux a young nun who promised to shower flowers of blessings on all from heaven and St, Maximilian Kolbe who in 1941 accepted death as a prisoner of the Nazi so that another prisoner may live. Almost all of them had some kind of mystical conversion at some point in their lives or a fascination in God in spite of suffering. But also it seems, according to Peter Kreeft, that mystics and saints are not exclusive to Christian faith. They are individuals who loved God as much as they could in any religion. Fr. Jacques Dupuis, S.J. wrote too that in all religions we can find the work of the Holy Spirit on individuals although adherents of non-Christian religions, if saved, are saved through Christ alone as the official publications of the Catholic Church (e.g. Dominus Iesus, published by the CDF in 2000) recognize. The development of understanding the mystery of salvation has been proposed here by the late American theologian and Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J.
And a sublime surprise of the natural sciences comes to us through the discovery of the quantum world. I wrote a little article about the significance of this discovery in many fields of knowledge and technological advances and especially how quantum entanglement is a stamp of the living Triune God of Christians. Another sublime surprise is the rediscovery of the beloved as beautiful in the eyes of the beholder that I attempted to describe here. It is particularly fascinating in nature and in fractals of chaos elegance, but mostly in those mystical experiences or the 4th degree of love of which St. Bernard of Clairvaux says
"The Fourth Degree of Love: Love of Self for God's Sake
Blessed are we who experience the fourth degree of love wherein we love ourselves for God's sake. Such experiences are rare and come only for a moment. In a manner of speaking, we lose ourselves as though we did not exist, utterly unconscious of ourselves and emptied of ourselves.If for even a moment we experience this kind of love, we will then know the pain of having to return to this world and its obligations as we are recalled from the state of contemplation. In turning back to ourselves we will feel as if we are suffering as we return into the mortal state in which we were called to live.
Can We Attain the Fourth Degree of Love?I am not certain that the fourth degree of love in which we love ourselves only for the sake of God may be perfectly attained in this life. But, when it does happen, we will experience the joy of the Lord and be forgetful of ourselves in a wonderful way. We are, for those moments, one mind and one spirit with God.I am of the opinion that this is what the prophet meant when he said: "I will enter into the power of the Lord: O Lord I will be mindful of Thy justice alone." He felt, certainly, that when he entered into the spiritual powers of the Lord he would have laid aside self and his whole being would, in the spirit, be mindful of the justice of the Lord alone."
Yes, we can connect the above since love is a strong relationship. It was because of love that God creates and sustains everything/everyone, and, in time, became man, redeemed man and rose from the dead. It is my conviction that he is still working in humanity until all become one in his kingdom. This is the beauty of the mystics and the beauty of the mystical theology of Teilhard de Chardin. God never fails. His Word, Christ, achieves everything in the Spirit, even if it takes a long time to possess his creation in his one love. Christ is risen and continues to be risen.
St. Paul writes " in hope (Rm, 8, 18-23)
With the above fascinating picture we can hope for a universe that will reach its purpose and goal in the Omega Point for the glory of God in his creation and for the emancipation of creation from evil.