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Theology Notebook: Reflection on Creation from Basil Pennington

An interesting reflection from M. Basil Pennington...


Do you adore? I am sure you will spontaneously respond: Of course I do. I adore our Lord and God. I adore Jesus, my God and my all.

But what do you mean when you say: I adore? The etymology of the word is not all that helpful. It comes from the Latin words: ad + ora = “to the hem.” It is descriptive of the act of kissing the hem of the garment of the potentate. But what do we mean when we adore the Lord? Just genuflecting (the right knee really touching the floor) or kneeling? These external rites have little value if they are not expressive of genuine, inner dispositions of the mind and heart.

I find in Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s powerful and powerfully moving little work, The Divine Milieu, a beautiful and deeply expressive effort to bring forth the meaning of “to adore”: “To adore… That means to lose oneself in the unfathomable, to plunge into the inexhaustible, to find peace in the incorruptible, to be absorbed in defined immensity, … to give of one’s deepest to that whose depth has no end.”

This is a truly beautiful expression, demanding much reflection, inviting us to new depths in our adoration. I hope you will give some time.

Nonetheless, it is largely negative, the via negativa, as the early Fathers would say, the apophatic, saying more what is not because it is impossible to adequately express what is: “the unfathomable” – that whose depths we can never fully explore; “the inexhaustible” – there will always be more and more and more; “the incorruptible” – never will there be any corruption, change, defect; “immensity” – not able to be measured; “whose depths has no end”.

With a realization of the inadequacy of this, Father Teilhard, in the best of Jesuit tradition, goes on to pray to Jesus:
“Disperse, 0 Jesus, the clouds with your lightning! Show yourself to us as the Mighty, the Radiant, the Risen! Come to us once again as the Pantocrator who filled the solitude of the cupolas in the ancient basilicas! Nothing less than this Parousia is needed to counter-balance and dominate in our hearts the glory of the world that is coming into view.”

This man who was so far ahead of his times was profoundly aware of the wonders of the creation, which have been ever more fully revealed to us and made present to us by the wonderful magazines we have today, the films, and
above all the television. With these we all have been invited to behold the wonders of Alaska and of the south island of New Zealand, the heights of the Himalayas and the depths of the Grand Canyon, the vast expanses of Siberia and the Sahara, the depths of the seas and the clouds above. What wonders our astronauts have made available to us, and far
beyond that, the images that have come back from the Hubble and other space probes. Is there not danger that the awesome beauty of all this might so “dominate in our hearts” that we might find it difficult to be filled with adoration for the Lord our God?

Father Teilhard, conscious of this, adds one more sentence to his prayer: “And so that we should triumph over the world with you, come to us clothed in the glory of the world.”

When we become aware that every single atom, neutron, every particle of creation, no matter how wondrous, no matter how beautiful, is but an expression of the being and beauty of God, a minute expression of his awesomeness, then all beckons us to constant adoration. When we realize all the glory of the world is but a clothing over of the One who is so much more beautiful, powerful and expansive as to be the Source of all the beauty and wonder we perceive, then every perception can call us forth to true adoration.

Come, let us adore!

Abba Basil

Dom M. Basil Pennington, ocso
Abbey of Blessed Mary of Saint Joseph
Spencer MA 01562
508-885-8726 Fax 435-518-0240
Tags: mysticism/spirituality, theological notebook

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