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)
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)
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.
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”
 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?
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.