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,

sending messengers:

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

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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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Thank you, Brother Ivan, for this breathtakingly beautiful and extremely timely prophetic reflection! You have inspired me on this gloriously autumnal Pennsylvanian day to share some thoughts of accord…

    Your words are full of desire and beauty, fear and trembling. I’m touched reading this heartfelt acknowledgement that all desire is ultimately both the yearning *for* the divine, and the loving creativity *of* the divine, that shines forth in our urges and in the fecund beauties of Creation. The “boundless body of Christ” offers itself in and through the entire cosmos, a gift of invitation and participation: “Take and eat.” We are one body in this one dynamically and ever-diversifying whole-making that is our Incarnational and Resurrectional cosmos.

    But it also terrifies us – not as a flinching or cringing before awful power, but as a shirking of our special place and responsibility in this divine order and becoming. We may tremble before the sheer majestic meaning of the boundless body of Christ – a blessed excess and glorious overabundance that breaks free from the theological idols that would attempt to contain it – but this fear is more truly a reluctance to take up the cross presented to humanity in our vanguard role in this great unfolding.

    We must smash the new idols of our time – ossifying idolatries such as certainty, dogmatism, comfort, and privilege. Any restriction or rejection of the flow of divine love through us and all around us that neglects our cosmically Christian fidelity must be left behind. And yet we should be heartened and encouraged that this faithfulness is no experience of burdensome duty. When our hearts are opened in true spiritual freedom, a table of cosmic plenty is set before us, that we may break bread and share wine together with all of Creation.

    Cosmically Christic becoming without end, Amen.

  2. Thank you for your wisdom here and I Love your poem/prayer at the beginning and end. I have been asking myself since I became Catholic in 2012 why? I have received several answers but none satisfactory till lately. I told my therapist that being Catholic allows me the freedom NOT to judge anyone for their spirituality or religious practice or atheism. All are pathways to the Divine life drawing us as we journey in this life together. I have been told I am an empath because I have the ability to feel others feelings as my own even in a crowd. And others just open up to me anywhere: in the checkout line, at a doctors office, anywhere public or private and tell my their life story and problems. I don’t have the answers for them but somehow become them and they seem to be better because of our encounter. I don’t know how this happens it just does. Even the checkout clerk will allow the line to be held up as they talk to me about themselves. Many people tell me things about themselves that seem to be more appropriate for a priest or therapist but they tell me. My therapist said they somehow feel safe around me. I don’t and cannot judge anyone because I am Catholic. I love our Mother Earth and feel somehow her pain at being raped by our societies and the people oppressed. By the way I hope I am not offending but I truly believe the LGBT community has a place in the church and society. They are loved by God and pathways to building each other up in the Body of Christ as we all humans journey through this life in the ever evolving universe of LOVE.

  3. Ivan, thank you for the words you have shared and the meaning they bring forth.

    “Where is Divine life attracting us through these technological capabilities, and how do we respond?“

    I think this is one of, if not the major question of the day. In what way will we consciously evolve with technological creations ? We live in a time where who we are and what we think can be hacked by various forces and factions. Our sociocultural structures, and certainly our political structures, are incapable and completely inept at discerning what evolving science and technology will mean for humanity and how to manage the sociocultural and economic disruptions they can cause. The questions the world’s religions and philosophers have been asking for millennia, what does it mean to be human? and how are we related to the universe?, actually need to be answered more now than ever. We need to be engaged in a contemplative way so that love guides our technology and not the idolatry of money. We can no longer be “spiritual” people but need to be fully engaged with our humanity as a manifestation of divinity. I pray we can do so.
    Peace.

  4. I am at a loss for adequate words. Others above have said it most eloquently. Thank you for sharing, as Michael says. My heart is expanded.

  5. Dear Ivan,
    Thank you for your thoughts, beautifully expressed, and so necessary. Your message is a timely one of love, hope and longing for a world confused by its own arrogant certainties. You put Christ at the centre of everything, a concept that has been largely lost in the recent times of distraction and novelty, but one that must be once again embraced, for his love is for all, in all and about everything.

    I am most grateful for your clarifying vision.

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