Pope Francis on the Via Positiva, part 3

Gratitude is another dimension to the Via Positiva experience.  In his encyclical “Laudato Si” Pope Francis calls for our expressing “gratitude for the gifts of creation” (227) and our very first “community conversion” ought to entail “gratitude and gratuitousness” and “a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures but joined in a splendid universal communion.” (220) 

Pope Francis’ encyclical may be read or downloaded here

This awareness of our interconnectivity with the rest of creation is spoken of numerous times– we live in an “interdependent” world (164) wherein “God wills the interdependence of creatures” and since “no creature is self-sufficient” creatures exist “in the service of each other.” (86)  Interdependence characterizes human society as well as our species as a whole.  (164)

A cosmic awareness is embedded in this encyclical.  The term “universe” is invoked twenty-three times and “universal” eighteen times and a sense of the Cosmic Christ (though not by name) is invoked frequently.  For example, in the Eucharist “the whole cosmos gives thanks to God” and “the Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love.”  (236) 

Pope Francis invokes panentheism when he says: “The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely.  Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face.”  He resists the narcissism of religion when he warns us that it is not enough “to discover the action of God in the soul,” rather we must also “discover God in all things.”  (233) 

“Michael” Photo by Matt Collamer, Unsplash

The pope offers this prayer to God: “You are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.” (246)  Notice the word in; not just “above and beyond.”  God is in all things macro and micro.  This too is Cosmic Christ or Buddha Nature or Image of God theology.[1]

While numerous scientists and people of many faiths have welcomed this encyclical, it has raised hackles among people who choose to be in denial about climate change and its subsequent physical and spiritual loss.  Rush Limbaugh, on reading the document, responded to it by calling Pope Francis a “Marxist.”  The Via Positiva is not value free in its implications.  One might say that people who read it will be judged by it.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, “Laudato Sí: The Pope’s Encyclical and the Coming of Age of Creation Spirituality: A Call to a Broader, Deeper Path of Hope and Challenge
[1] See David Mevorach Seidenberg, Kabbalah and Ecology: God’s Image in the More-Than-Human World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015).  Rabbi David establishes an eco-theology on the basis of the “image of God” theology concluding that all beings are an image of God.  How like the Cosmic Christ or Buddha Nature archetypes this is!
Banner image: “Nutshimit Resurrection” Photo by Phila Hoopes

Queries for Contemplation

Have you meditated lately on the mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, a dewdrop, a poor person’s face?

Can you say with Pope Francis that Divinity is to be found in all things macro and micro?  Can you thus empty yourself before all things to see again that perspective, a revelation you may have felt as a child?

Do you think it is possible that denial of climate change goes along with denial of the presence of the Divine in nature?

Consider studying alone or with others the pope’s important encyclical on “Laudato Si, Praise for our Common Home.” 

Recommended Reading

 In this extended commentary, Matthew Fox examines Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, noting its  creation spirituality perspective and calling on readers to abandon doctrinal squabbles and unite in protecting “our common home” through the vias positiva, negativa, creativa and transformativa.

By Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, and Jen Listug
“The Order of the Sacred Earth not only calls us home to our true nature as Earth, but also offers us invaluable guidance and company on the way.” 
~~ Joanna Macy, environmental activist and author of Active Hope
“The creation of the Order of the Sacred Earth is a magnificent step forward for humanity.”  ~~ Andrew Harvey, author of Way of Passion and The Hope.

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1 thought on “Pope Francis on the Via Positiva, part 3”

  1. Matthew Fox

    I would like to share, with much appreciation, a comment that was sent directly to me by author/educator Gerald Grudzen…
    I have been following your most recent meditations on Laudato Si, Care for Creation, of Pope Francis.
    We had an interfaith seminar with a Muslim foundation in Nairobi this past Tuesday and we learned that they had
    done an interfaith conference in June with the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi. Your own writing and that of
    Pope Francis is creating an interfaith platform for a world-wide movement to gain a renewed appreciation of our
    connection to the earth and the Cosmos. We discuss Laudato Si extensively in our book on Pope Francis: Conscience of the World which will be released this fall. In this book we show the important connection of interfaith spirituality with a renewed appreciation of Mother Earth.

    I would like your permission to use your recent meditations on Laudato Si in a article that I am planning for a report on our Kenya project. We plan to work with the graduates of our program here in Kenya on initiatives that provide for a sustainable future for East Africa and the whole of Africa as well. Wangari Maathai started the Green Belt Movement here which is now part of the Kenyan culture of planting trees rather than cutting them down. One of our faculty, Professor Teresia Hinga, a native Kenyan and Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University, is an expert on Wangari Maathai and serves as a consultant and faculty member to our project here in Kenya. She will be speaking at our interfaith seminar here in Mombasa beginning next Monday. We will have 26 principals attending our program from the coastal region of Kenya. Our program has now been endorsed by the Ministry of Education for the coastal region of Kenyan which has been plagued by interfaith and intercultural conflict.

    Some of our Muslim partners here in Kenya took part in the recent conference in Nairobi sponsored by the United Nations and the Vatican entitled Laudato Si Generation: Young People Caring for our Common Home. It was held in Nairobi from July 15 to July 17. We plan to include material from this conference for our upcoming interfaith course for Kenyan Principals, Laudato Si’ Generation: Young People Caring for Our Common Home.: https://www.unenvironment.org/events/conference/laudato-si-generation-young-people-caring-our-common-home

    Gerald Grudzen
    President, Global Ministries University

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