I was struck a few days ago when a scientist on television said that they were poring over the first pictures from the Webb telescope and were crying while examining them.
I am glad scientists cry and cry tears of joy at their accomplishments and humanity’s accomplishments and the sharing of the universe’s wonders.
Surely humanity of late has had much to cry about—mass shootings of children, mass destruction and death in war in Ukraine to feed the ego of a wannabe tzar in the 21st century, unsupreme courts that seek to lord over all of us and who feel anointed to tell American women what they can and cannot do with their bodies, ignoring the wishes of the vast number of Americans who don’t want Roe to be expunged .
And of course the Extinction thing otherwise known as climate change. And the denial of climate change and the lifting up of fossil fuel oligarchs who have remade our legal system and political system to serve their corporate capitalist gods because they have the money to do so. Fascism fashionable again and on the rise. Idolatry on the run just as Thomas Merton predicted when he warned us that the combination of fundamentalist religion and empire building will grant us “the greatest orgy of idolatry the world has ever known.”
In the midst of our tears of sadness and moral outrage, there appears the Universe as we have never seen it before. All 13.8 billion years of it. Our history. Our Story. Earth’s Story. Cosmogenesis—the universe birthing and at work.
How wonderful is that? What difference can ecstasy make?
Thomas Aquinas takes one sentence by the psalmist—”They shall be drunk with the beauty of thy house,” and adds, “that is, the Universe.”
The psalmist invites us to ecstasy and inebriation on the beauty of God’s house. But Aquinas explains the origin of our spiritual intoxication with one word: the universe. Yes, the universe exists to get us drunk. The universe exists to make us joyful beyond measure.
The universe does not just exist, it has brought us into existence. It invites us to inebriation. Rabbi Heschel declares that the universe “shocks us into amazement”—indeed, “the existence of the world is the most unlikely, the most unbelievable fact. . . . the existence of the universe is contrary to all reasonable expectations.”
Aquinas proposes that being drunk means our “desires will be filled beyond all measurement of merit. For intoxication is a kind of excess, as the Song of Songs says, ‘my beloved, you are drunk with love.’”
Love of the universe renders us drunk. Is that happening and is that good news? JWST increases our drunkenness. Ecstasy is another term for being drunk, as Aquinas points out, for “those who are drunk are not inside of themselves but outside of themselves.”
Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 9-11.
And Matthew Fox, A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, pp. 203-224.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI
Queries for Contemplation
Can you find yourself getting drunk on the universe? What difference can that make on Earth?
The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times
A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book! Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit
A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey
In A Way to God, Fox explores Merton’s pioneering work in interfaith, his essential teachings on mixing contemplation and action, and how the vision of Meister Eckhart profoundly influenced Merton in what Fox calls his Creation Spirituality journey.
“This wise and marvelous book will profoundly inspire all those who love Merton and want to know him more deeply.” — Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism
Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart
Matthew Fox’s comprehensive translation of Meister Eckhart’s sermons is a meeting of true prophets across centuries, resulting in a spirituality for the new millennium. The holiness of creation, the divine life in each person and the divine power of our creativity, our call to do justice and practice compassion–these are among Eckhart’s themes, brilliantly interpreted and explained for today’s reader.
“The most important book on mysticism in 500 years.” — Madonna Kolbenschlag, author of Kissing Sleeping Beauty Goodbye.