Chenu admires Aquinas for the importance he gives to matter. Remember Aquinas tells us that this is why he preferred Aristotle to Plato, because Aristotle “does not denigrate matter.”
Chenu talks about the “continuous incarnation” and the “continuous creation,” meaning it is not just Christ who took on flesh but we all do. Incarnation goes on and on. It is continuous.
Chenu says of Aquinas:
In contrast to his contemporaries who condemned him for his ‘materialism,’ Saint Thomas believed that the genesis of history was accomplished through the development of the species and of the individual by and in matter. Matter is the principle of individuation. An individual does not become a person except in a body; one’s own personal ‘incarnation’ is at the same time the principle of individuality, sociability, and historicity.
With incarnation comes responsibility. Today our responsibility extends to Mother Earth and to creation itself. Chenu put it this way:
Creation fails when humanity fails….Bonhoeffer has said as much in his Ethics wherein he declares: ‘It is a matter today of taking part in the reality of God and of the world in such a way that I never experience the reality of God without that of the world and vice versa.’
Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit poet, priest, scientist and mystic, who like Chenu got in trouble with the Vatican that forbade most of his books from being published in his lifetime, also celebrates matter. Says he:
Till the very end of time matter will always remain young, exuberant, sparkling, newborn for those who are willing.
Teilhard sounds very optimistic here. He is not whining about how matter runs down and dies and renders us tired. Quite the opposite!
He is saying that matter is always young and “will always remain young”–matter is always new. That is one of the spiritual insights derived from evolution and from observing life. Life, “matter,” is constantly being created. But, as Teilhard points out, this perspective accrues to “those who are willing.”
Individuals remain spiritually young when they remain open and willing to join forces of youthfulness and renewal and hope.
Notice that evolution for Teilhard is not an obstacle to faith. Quite the opposite, it offers insight on the deeper dimensions of Spirit at work in history.
That magic word, ‘evolution’ which haunted my thoughts like a tune: which was to me like unsatisfied hunger, like a promise held out to me, like a summons to be answered.
Adapted from Adapted from M. D. Chenu, “Body and Body Politic in the Creation Spirituality of Thomas Aquinas,” in Matthew Fox, ed., Western Spirituality: Historical Roots, Ecumenical Routes, pp. 204. 207
And Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics, pp. 220, 226.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner image: Thomas Aquinas (by Sandro Botticelli, Wikimedia Commons); Marie-Dominique Chenu (from the cover of A Coming of God into Time and History: The Theological Project of M-d Chenu Op) and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Wikimedia Commons)
Queries for Contemplation
How do Teilhard, Chenu and Aquinas inspire you to love matter and find ever-present newness and youthfulness in matter and in evolution and in your own incarnation into the cosmos?
In this book, Fox gathers scholars from various cultures and traditions such as Helen Kenik, Jon Sobrino, Nicolas Berdyaev, Rosemary Ruether, M. D. Chenu, Mary Jose Hobday, Ronald Miller, Monika Hellwig, James Kenney, Justin O’Brien and others to approach creation spirituality from many traditions and many angles.
“An exciting and important book…a pleasant alternative to the oppressive burden of the fall/redemption tradition.” ~ New Review of Books and Religion
Christian Mystics: 365 Readings & Meditations
As Matthew Fox notes, when an aging Albert Einstein was asked if he had any regrets, he replied, “I wish I had read more of the mystics earlier in my life.” The 365 writings in Christian Mystics represent a wide-ranging sampling of these readings for modern-day seekers of all faiths — or no faith. The visionaries quoted range from Julian of Norwich to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Thomas Merton to Dorothee Soelle and Thomas Berry.
“Our world is in crisis, and we need road maps that can ground us I wisdom, inspire us to action, and help us gather our talents in service of compassion and justice. This revolutionary book does just that. Matthew Fox takes some of the most profound spiritual teachings of the West and translates them into practical daily mediations. Study and practice these teachings. Take what’s in this book and teach it to the youth because the new generation cannot afford to suffer the spirit and ethical illiteracy of the past.” — Adam Bucko, spiritual activist and co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation for Homeless Youth