Learning to Read the Book of the Universe
Lya is a member of Minsteracres Community in County Durham and a member of the Community of the Passion. She has a vibrant theology which combines devotion to Christ and love and respect for Creation, and is currently overseeing a project to restore a Victorian walled vegetable garden using traditional tools and skills.
“He (Jesus Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creatures. In him everything in heaven and on earth was created, visible and invisible… all were created through him and for him. He existed before all else that is. In him everything continues in being. It is he who is head of the body, the Church; he is the source of the body’s life, the first-born of the dead, so that he may be first in everything. It pleased God to make the absolute fullness (of divine nature) reside in him.”Col 1:15-19
All Passionist religious make a vow to keep alive the memory of the Passion of Jesus Christ. How to do that is open to interpretation, but it is widely accepted that there are two parts to it: To contemplate the passion story as described in the four gospels and to go where people are suffering today. Paul of the Cross understood that Jesus’ passion was God’s greatest gift of love. He gave himself. He became human and shared the human condition, shared our pain but, as St. Paul writes in the letter to the Philippians, he went even further than that – not only did he take on human form, he became a slave and emptied himself. This self-emptying is life-giving because his love is eternal and has no end. When he died on the cross Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing’.
Indeed, we don’t know what we are doing to the earth, our common home, God’s creation. We act as if the earth is a collection of objects, exploiting it for our own needs and greed, instead of considering it to be a communion of subjects, as Thomas Berry describes it. We have disconnected Christ from the Cosmic Christ. God’s giving of his Son and His giving of creation are not two separate gifts but one. They are two expressions of the same: ‘the first-born of all creatures. In him everything in heaven and on earth was created, visible and visible’. The harm we do to creation we also do to the Cosmic Christ and we do to ourselves. We are part of the Cosmic Christ as we were created through him and for him.
As Christians, but particularly as Passionists, we need to go to where Christ is suffering in the whole of creation. We need to go not only with our bodies, but with our heart and soul and mind. We need to enter into communion with the Cosmic Christ, connect with him in all that is created visible and invisible. Where do we start? As Thomas Berry says in his book The Great Work: ‘While we have more scientific knowledge of the universe than people ever had, it is not the type of knowledge that leads to an intimate presence within a meaningful universe. We no longer read the book of the universe.’
At Minsteracres Retreat Centre we are in the process of creating a space where we can start learning to read the book of the universe again. The walled garden is in the process of becoming a contemplative garden, a space to listen to nature, to give thanks for the gift of creation, to restore our relationship with her, to become aware of her suffering as well as her healing powers and to become a conscious and integral part of the Cosmic Christ.
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