by Ivan Nicoletto OSB Cam
Eat and drink my body
that began growing since the Big Birth
some fourteen billion years ago.
Unwinding, dramatic story,
shining now in me
as all-embracing and self-giving love.
I breathe in you my spirit:
enticing you to participate
in this creative blooming of forms,
of meanings, connections and imagination.
Listen to the cosmic prayer of every being
– no one excluded, wounded, or unheard.
Impossible liberation from your egos,
but possible and free transformation for me.
With a myriad of terrestrial living beings we are one aspiring flesh, which wants to keep itself alive, which is moved by the same striving for fulfillment and wholeness. With them we share the same hunger and thirst to thrive, to enjoy, to grow, to communicate, and to feel. We are inhabited and moved by desires as the primordial expressions of the flesh of the world.
Desire tells us that we are not only propelled by primary needs such as food, housing, clothing, or things we can possess, manage, and define. We are driven by a desire beyond desire that shines in an amazing way in the life of Jesus Christ. Particularly in the gospel of John, through intensifying conversations around wine, light, water, or bread, the eyes of our hearts are awakened to the attractive and gratuitous excess of Divine action. Our journey of faith begins to unfold when we realize love’s transforming yeast seeded in our longings, which presses and exceeds the limiting borders of our bodies – personal and collective – opening them to the newness of an ever coming, surprising, and ecstatic God.
There is a particular place in John’s gospel, at chapter six, where the conversation about what deeply nourishes us, the bread of life, reaches a tipping point that speaks to me in this way: Take my life in yours, conspire with my spirit, and you will enter into eternal life, into this transfiguring flow that runs between me and God, through the universe, and into the very heart of yours. Taste and see this amazing, newly emergent transformation: the food of new consciousness is now ready, the wine is already fermenting, heaven has been opened, and the harvest is ripe. Enter the banquet of eternal life, of universal consciousness, where God is no longer outside, but is an expanding, transcending, and self-giving love within and among your bodies.
In light of this new vision of Christ many are frightened, which is very human: This is too radical, participatory, engaging, free, boundless, and risky to be accepted. Welcoming this transcendent force of love in our life we feel we are losing our separate, controlled, and assured self.
There are numerous ways in which we could reject the spirit of eternal Love. I would like to highlight some potential obstacles to encompassing Goodness.
I feel that one source of resistance comes from our difficulty to leave the flesh of our protective and comforting shells. Our knowledge and definitions, our ethics, habits, doctrines, and entrenched institutions often block the ongoing creative process. We often prefer the manageable status quo, or a nostalgic view of the past, what has worked so far, forgetting that the universe, the earth, and human consciousness are still coming into bloom, asking for new creative answers. It is hard for us to consider the present form of the world as a provisional and transitory process, a potentiality waiting to become more, attracted to boundless love, in an endless exodus of transformation. Yet, Christ’s energies have not been fully actualized, and are continually opening myriads of potentialities.
Another hindrance to welcome eternal life is our refusal to enter into the new vision of the universe as a deep story from which we come and to which we belong, and to consider the Divine force not as a despotic, external, and paternalistic figure, but the inexhaustible Source who so loved the world to give it birth, to allow it to emerge, and to organize itself. Indwelling Spirit incessantly rises the dough of matter, manifests herself within it, allow its becoming as God’s blossoming body, and as attractive Future is fermenting new being. In the light of this immense horizon of almost 14 billion years, our hearts and minds arte invited to contemplate, wonder, and conspire with God’s enlivening creation.
Another obstacle that distances us from the breathing Spirit is our reluctance to recognize the uncontainable, Divine mystery in the irreducible diversity of other world faiths, cultures, races, and genders as sparks of God’s limitless abundance. We are often tempted to create divisions, exclusions, binary oppositions between right and wrong, true and false, good and evil, sacred and profane. It is not uncommon for a religious group to identify the All-embracing God with a particular association, to circumscribe the Uncontainable to a class, a behavior, a rule, an order, or a place. Yet, no human assembly has the monopoly or possession of the irreducible Source. It is, rather, unpredictable, surprising, and disrupting events that challenge this pretense, that break the borders of an organized church, forcing her to be continually open and broken by the incessant overcoming or emergence of newness and change. Christ calls us to listen, heal, arise, subvert, feed, forgive, liberate, and enable others to bloom. Jesus joins us as a boundary crosser, leading us beyond exploitation and exclusion toward cooperation, from ‘being against’ to one caravan of seekers and lovers.
A further, political resistance that is obstructing the coming of eternal life is the impasse in overstepping the boundaries of our industrial age with its destructive consequences: the idolatry of the market, the systemic exploitation of people, and the ecological degradation that threatens our entire world. The prevailing, economic goal of accumulation legitimates global inequalities, deregulation, an abusive relationship to the earth’s ecosystems, and the primacy of national independence. The heart of Christian faith reminds us that the relational, Trinitarian texture of God’s life is a sharing communion, inviting us to enter into economic and environmental equity, restoration of the creative sources, and into the making of an international, interdependent world.
“With a myriad of terrestrial living beings we are one aspiring flesh, which wants to keep itself alive, which is moved by the same striving for fulfillment and wholeness. ”
I want to voice a last concern that may halt the metamorphosis of our consciousness. Assured by our perennial wisdom and spirituality we can become unaware that the emerging technologies of genetics, robotics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and neuroscience are reshaping the limits and the horizons of our world and humanity dramatically and unthinkably, perhaps announcing a new chapter of cosmic adventure. We are forging a new bio-convergence, a new alliance between human intelligence and non biological intelligence, and this transformation opens entirely new perspectives and challenges, gradually dissolving our defined, natural limits. We are moving toward a history of life driven by conscious evolution rather than natural evolution: What kind of new spirituality, ethics and politics are we forging? Would they be driven by fear, reaction, regression, or propelled by participation, creativeness, and prophecy? Where is Divine life attracting us through these technological capabilities, and how do we respond?
Jesus, in this ongoing conversation with us about nourishment is challenging those whose thinking is bounded by the flesh, by the limits of this world as it is, and propels the hearts of those who are open to a new, incessant creation: “Yes, the flesh of your containers is small, but if you open yourselves to the attractive force of the spirit of love, divine action will amazingly expand your hearts.”
Pope Francis asks: Are we “drawing room” Christians, anesthetized and indifferent to what is happening around us, or are we counting on, engaged in God’s liberating tomorrow? We may in fact be heading in different directions. One could lead to that terrible report in Pennsylvania about sexual abuses on boys, connected to an exclusive male clerical monopoly on church leadership. The other is inspiring the “Nuns on the Bus” to head to Mar-a-Lago, the president’s resort in Florida, to protest the Tax Law that will widen the gap between rich and poor.
Where are we sensing God’s amazing action and attraction in our life?
How is the music of eternal life moving us today?
At the heart of the Christian faith shines an open table without exclusion, where Christ is the chef, the host, and the food of life. The broken bread and the pouring wine manifests the Divine attitude to welcome especially the ones who are brokenhearted, neglected, rejected and crushed. And we are transformed into the body and blood of boundless and creative love, incorporated into the same divine DNA as everyone else – regardless of species, ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality, appearance, or social class.
You are continually coming, God,
matter, life, feelings and mind,
angels that open earth, story, and heart
to your unfurling, unfinished mystery.
They attract us toward new territories
with loud cries, tears, and fights.
That we may perceive you,
let us be opened, and welcome you in all elements,
cosmic, human, and other that human.
May we welcome you
in your unexpected, disruptive,
and moving visits.
And dive into the abyss of your becoming.
Ivan Nicoletto is a Benedictine Camaldolese monk, author and retreat director residing at Incarnation Monastery in Berkeley.
He wrote Journey of Faith, Journey of the Universe. The Lectionary and the New Cosmology, published by Liturgical Press in 2015.
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