Rev. Jim Ryan, PhD — email@example.com
Co-pastor of Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles Community
Two scripture quotes have equipped me in our 10+ years as a community with all the references I require to define who and how we are, this community of Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles. One quote defines God among us and the other quote defines priesthood among us. Well, they do for me, which is why I have included them at various times in the odd homily – spoken and written.
Here they are:
“When, finally all has been subjected to the Son, he will then subject himself to the One who made all things subject to him, so that God may be all in all.”
(1 Corinthians 15:28)
“You too are living stones, built as an edifice of spirit, into a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
(1 Peter 2:5)
Our growth in community as also our personal growth in the Holy Spirit is an ever-deepening awareness of God’s presence in us, in our world, and in all creation. Some may see this deepening growth through the lens of new cosmology and refer to this experience as divinization. In this light all creation is on the path to oneness with God who divinizes our humanity for the sake of making that oneness real. So, an idea and realization of God as all in all lights up the faith, worship, and work of community. I hope you can see how I view this experience of God who is all in all as a defining reality of our community life.- the pursuit of the ever-deepening, ever-expanding One who is All in All!
While this particular scripture quote from 1 Corinthians has an End of Time flavor about it, we must all acknowledge our call to grow daily in that sense of God who is within us, divinizing body and spirit. Remember when we used to ask in prayer that each day we could become more Christlike? This is the very real way that God becomes all in all.
Along with definition, self & communal identity, as well as becoming Christ for the world we celebrate the universal priesthood to which we belong through baptism. I have said many times, “We are all priests – not just figuratively, not just spiritually but really. We, as community, offer, consecrate, recognize and sacramentalize the action of eating and drinking, breaking the bread and wine of communion. We, a community in which priesthood emerges as sacramental gift of the Holy Spirit, are the ones who call those to lead worship and other ministries. Still, we are all priests together. Alice and I may have invited people to form community, but let’s face it –it takes a community to make faith live. I believe this is what underlies the quote from 1 Peter that acknowledges we are the living stones who build a holy priesthood.
There you have it, 2 quotes that I have offered to the community as guides. So, imagine my surprise as I was reading a chapter by Richard Kearney, “Toward an Open Eucharist.” In it he shares his view on the intercommunion question between Christian denominations (You know, it’s the old question that won’t go away – kind of like systemic racism in American society. The question is “May a Catholic receive communion in another Church?” Or, the other way “May a non-Catholic receive communion in the Catholic Church?” GOOD LORD, I am so thankful this question has no place in our communion sharing at which all are welcome.)
To make his point on both “”God as All in All” and “how priesthood fits the Eucharist these days” Kearney presents a few thoughts from Teilhard De Chardin. Now, here’s the surprise, he uses these same 2 quotes because Chardin used them also when presenting his views on these matters.
This association by luck is one thing. But I am inspired to see that our community life matches well Chardin’s own choice of Scripture for growth in so many ways.
Chardin writes that all matter is on the evolutionary journey to the Omega Point, which is the evidence of the Christification of all creation. Christ returns all to the Creator as that same Creator becomes all in all. He also draws the connection between communion and this divinization which he sees even and especially in his scientific research. He writes, “Each communion, each consecration is a notch farther in our incorporation into Christ.” And Kearney writes, “As the Word becomes flesh in humanity, humans become God through the same process of mutual embodiment, echoing the patristic teaching that God became (human) so that (humans) could become God.”
Are you as happy as I am to see that Teilhard De Chardin envisioned such a community as ours – one that believes in the God who is all in all and who makes beautiful through eucharistic extensions the community life that celebrates such a vision?
Chardin refers to this vision as theogenesis and the human dignity which is its result we see as the sacrament which, above all, grounds, solidifies, and glorifies our global humanity, namely, Eucharist and the priests who contribute to making real the divine presence and action in creation. And yes, we are those priests. We are the ones who celebrate what Chardin spoke of as Mass upon the altar of the world.
Kearney writes, “The world serves as the altar of matter becoming ‘Christifiable.’ But this cannot occur without us, each of us, becoming its poets, mystics, servants, researchers, and priests.” By a “longing for a great communion” the priesthood we celebrate is so much bigger than any one institution’s confining practice of creating a caste of cultic clerics. By our words, by the words of consecration that we say together we are priests in service of the Christ who is sacramentally present with, in, and among us.
Here is where Kearney cites Chardin’s invoking 1 Peter 2:5. Chardin declares that lay people may also be “true priests” who can offer his spiritual Mass of the World. Isn’t it the case that our community puts into practice this view that when all of life is communion, then sacramental practice must follow suit? Ritual does not make the world. Again, Kearney, “Flesh is matter animated by the Word, and Christ is the soul of the cosmos….The universe may be conceived as an immense host made flesh by the touch of the Word.”
My point is that our faithful speaking of words of consecration done in and with community is the priestly act which connects bread and wine with all creation and reveals Christ present. This is how we sense and feel God who is all in all.
By these 2 quotes: I Corinthians 15: 28 and 1 Peter 2:5 we join in good company with Teilhard de Chardin who some refer to as the “Father of the New Age.” That may be, but I’m simply comfortable with welcoming Teilhard into this community which he foresaw – Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles.
And as for Open Eucharist – I recall that the recipients of Jesus’ first Eucharist were not even Christian. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)
The Mass On The World – Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, S,J.
Receive, O Lord, this all-embracing host which your whole creation, moved by your magnetism, offers you at this dawn of a new day.
This bread, our toil, is of itself, I know, but an immense fragmentation; this wine, our pain, is no more, I know, than a draught that dissolves. Yet in the very depths of this formless mass you have implanted —and this I am sure of, for I sense it — a desire, irresistible, hallowing, which makes us cry out, believer and unbeliever alike: ‘Lord, make us one.
For me, my God, all joy and all achievement, the very purpose of my being and all my love of life, all depend on this one basic vision of the union between yourself and the universe. Let others, fulfilling a function more august than mine, proclaim your splendours as pure Spirit; as for me, dominated as I am by a vocation which springs from the inmost fibres of my being, I have no desire, I have no ability, to proclaim anything except the innumerable prolongations of your incarnate Being in the world of matter; I can preach only the mystery of your flesh, you the Soul shining forth though all that surrounds us.
It is in this dedication, Lord Jesus, I desire to live, in this I desire to die.
(Mass on the World is the first chapter in “Hymn of the Universe” 1961)
Thanks Jim. A nice complement to a discussion I just listened to between Tim Freke and Ilia Delio on the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. We in the Mary Magdala Community, like Chardin, are indeed ‘pilgrims from the future’.
Thank you for the thoughtful and beautiful blending of the visions of Teilhard and Mary Magdala Church. Way back in college my future husband and I took evolutionary theology and studied Teilhard. We were captivated and chose an Omega for the design on our wedding rings. It’s been too long since I’ve heard Teilhard referenced from the pulpit in a fulsome way. I deeply appreciate having found a Church that makes me stop and think, pray and look toward the future.
Here is the Yeats poem that my comment referenced:
The Second Coming
BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Great alliteration: “creating a caste of cultic clerics.” Yes, and as Alice and I both know, the cult of the Roman Church is all male. This cult in the U.S. is lead by Cardinal Dolan who is vying for position of Pope. It is insider baseball, has nothing to do with the “whole of creation.”
I recall the Yeats poem (I’ll try to reclaim it and post it here), that predicts the evil that came for Christ is reforming now, not the end of times narrative, but a forewarning of this dangerous cult behavior of the institutional church. We, the laity, must reclaim our birthright in the mystic whole of creation.