When Joy Affects History and Cosmology Initiates Joy

We are talking about Joy in the context of Evil and its remedies, one of which, in Rabbi Heschel’s understanding, is holiness.

Trailer of Spiritual Audacity: The Abraham Joshua Heschel Story, reflecting on his prophetic life and legacy of speaking out against evil. Journey Films

But holiness, I maintain, has something to do with Joy (and courage and generosity and justice-making) at this time in history.  Joy is considered a “fruit of the spirit” after all and especially the fruit of our work including work for justice, healing and compassion as we considered in yesterday’s DM.

We are moved to joy by the good work of others, work of courage and truth-telling for example that we saw from E. Jean Carroll.

Père Chenu, the great historian and theologian with whom I had the privilege of studying in 1968, writes about the impact that St. Francis of Assisi had on history by way of joy in his classic book, Nature, Man and Society in the Twelfth Century.  In that moment, it was “thanks to the spread of culture and thanks even more to a sensational apostolic awakening,” that people “became collectively aware of their environment and sought to understand it.” 

St. Francis of Assisi changed the world as a man who lived the Gospel in a radical way. Aleteia – Spirituality and Inspiration

Francis, of course, was part of that “sensational” evangelical awakening—a return to the Gospels.  In fact, Chenu tells usthe joy of St Francis had more influence than King John’s oath of fealty to the pope, not only upon the prosperity of the church but also upon men’s progress in the knowledge of Christ.*  

This statement cannot be over exaggerated.  One person’s joy had a greater historical impact than pope’s and king’s peace treaties!  Spirit works at the grassroots and not just among the potentates.  Joy can burst in from all over and capture peoples’ attention.

Speaking of bursting in from all over, Joy can also come to us from the stars, from the “heavens,” from Father Sky, from the cosmos. 

The PaGaian Breath Meditation emerges out of the practice of PaGaian Cosmology, a sense of the whole Earth in every moment, and yet is known intimately in the self. By Glenys Livingstone Ph.D.

Cosmogenesis brings on Joy because awe and wonder bring on Joy. Spirit often works overtime awakening new directions for humanity because of new insights into Nature and the Cosmos that excite and incite humans to new visions–consider the prophet Joel: 

I will pour out my spirit upon all humankind, your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

Today, many young people are seeing visions of an earth-based and not a nation-based planetary consciousness that outgrows militarism and patriarchy in favor of loving an endangered and singular planet. Cosmogenesis assists that visionary future.

*M. D. Chenu, Nature, Man and Society in the Twelfth Century, p. xvii.

See Matthew Fox, Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth.  

And Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Oxfam’s performance art at Durban Climate Conference, South Africa, illustrates the devastating impact of climate change on the world’s poorest people. Photo by Oxfam International on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you know other historical examples besides St. Francis where Joy changed history?  And where a new view of nature and the cosmos awakened a people and birthed a renaissance?

Recommended Reading

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

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9 thoughts on “When Joy Affects History and Cosmology Initiates Joy”

  1. Avatar

    We are our ‘new birth’ in anything and everything. The same Holy Spirit that inspired St. Francis, and others in like fashion, is in the here and now to inspire us as well if we are open to it. Why look elsewhere when the ‘answer’ is within, the joy is within? — BB.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    I think of Hildegard, the Beguines, White Buffalo Calf Woman, the artists known as the Group of Seven, the poets Thoreau and Rumi, and the scientists Einstein, Chardin and David Sasuki and the psychologists Jung and Rogers and many more… the ones not named in the history books… the unsung radicals of love, compassion, love, mercy, joy and justice, whose names are engraved upon the heart of God. This is the tapestry, the great cloud of witnesses that we are all weaved together with as ONE sacred lineage. Each of us all, in our own unique way, is a thread within the fabric of this story… unfolding, evolving and emerging… continously converging with this living Spirit within all!

  3. Avatar

    I just synchronistically finished watching a webinar interview of Allison Holley (channeler) sponsored by New Earth One Network (free on YouTube). The title of the interview is “Ecstatic Body thru Sacred Sexual Practices.” The title is a little misleading because it is not solely about secular four dimensional sexuality. If you ‘see’ and ‘listen’ to the whole interview, it is about experiencing and healing the whole body, heart, mind, and spirit on our spiritual journeys of consciousness toward the Love and Joy of our inner True Selves of Loving Oneness in the Present Moment with ourselves, others, sacred Mother Earth, and the Cosmos. Her website is allisonholley.com and her recent book is “Ecstatic Playground.”

  4. Richard E Reich

    Today you ask us: “Do you know other historical examples besides St. Francis where Joy changed history?” Yes, you, and to this: “And where a new view of nature and the cosmos awakened a people and birthed a renaissance?” I answer, your book says it all: “The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the BIRTH OF A GLOBAL RENAISSANCE.” For those who haven’t, get it and read it !!!

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Hi Richard,
      Thanks for the nudge to read and celebrate the wisdom of, “The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the BIRTH OF A GLOBAL RENAISSANCE.”
      And Thank you, for lifting Matthew’s presence and lifelong work up as our contemporary historical example of one who offers JOY as a catalyst to change history!
      In addition to his books, Matthew, walks his talk in the model of education he promoted and promotes. From Circle Dances, to Chanting, to Art as Meditation, to Cosmic Mass, Creativity, and more. Matthew has often said the Via Positiva is the most difficult of the paths. We don’t take the time to wonder at the wonders, or Joy in the Joys, with which we find ourselves surrounded.

  5. Avatar

    For me, the Zen aesthetic — its many forms of art and its worldview — are natural expressions of joy within an intuitive life and mysticism. So much beauty and breathtaking wisdom has been captured in the subtleties of their arts and poetry. They find natural beauty in the nuances of life and celebrate the most fleeting of moments. They make space in every detail for the “open, infinite, sacred, unexpressed” that shimmers, unspoken and unpainted, in every artwork just as in every moment of life. I’ve been drawn to their art for as long as I can remember — I grew up with Oriental art and big, illustrated books about it, and the Japanese Zen-inspired arts always caught my attention. My mysticism pairs well with Zen art, I believe, a happy mutual celebration of life.

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