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Rev. Dr. Carol Kilby, 10/01/2014
“Communion may be one of the deepest tendencies in the Universe”
Brian Swimme and Evelyn Tucker, Journey of the Universe, “ (51)
A Cosmic Christmas Eve
Dark-eyed Conner was the only child in the church. Visiting Grandma for the holidays,he was welcomed by his friend, the white-bearded clergy who’d baptized him three years ago. They stood together at the Christmas creche. It was set this year in front of a looming six foot high star-hung blue cosmos. After Mom had snapped their picture with her smart phone, he climbed up on his seat to play with his very own i-pod. No one expected him to participate in the Christmas Eve Communion.
At prayer time Connor’s Mom made her way to the tray of Votive candles. Not a usual part of Protestant services they’ signaled new understandings. First, that, everything is “an expression of the One Luminescence…. and the embodied radiance of the Universe.” (Universe Story/Swimme&Berry) And secondly, that prayer wasn’t about petitioning a distant deity like placing an order to Amazon.com out there in cyberspace. Rather prayer was to embrace one’s incarnate radiant energy, direct and express that energy as our intentions for the future. Prayer was about influencing and cooperating with the Christic field in which we lived and moved and have being. Prayer had evolved.
“That we can bring Santa and Jesus together for Connor” was the mother’s prayer and intention. The organizers of the evening also had an intention. They had hung yards of blue tulle, draped a Milky Way of stars, and solar system of planets on an old privacy screen from someone’s attic and placed it just so behind the nativity scene. Their prayer for this evening was to bring Christ and the Cosmos together, for Conner and all who came. The circle added vibrational energy to the intentions by singing, “Send forth the light of our community.” It was more than a magical Christmas-card moment at the century old frame church. It was the beginning of an evening that would see a communion of Christian tradition and the new science, and a Eucharist that was not to be anything Conner’s Mother, Grandmother, or her ancestors could ever have predicted.
This was to be a celebration of the birth of a new time. Absent were the parameters that had traditionally excluded young children from the Sacrament of the Last Supper such as First Communion or Confirmation. Also missing were the moral prerequisites for adults such as membership, the sacrament of reconciliation or confession. There had been no pre – screening visit to his parents from an elder bearing a communion card, the ticket of admittance and sign of worthiness. Nor was there the weighty funereal cloak of guilt, duty or remembrance that ‘Jesus died for you’. These beliefs and practices, once intended to foster a moral society, had also fanned the fires of religious fundamentalism. This night there was no “insideous presumption that sinlessness and sameness was a requirement”. (Anne Primavesi, Making God Laugh) Born this night, in the village of Kinmount was a celebration of cosmic communion.
Conner, as were all beings regardless of age, creed, or species, were not just welcome, but essential. Conner was delighted to be needed. Eagerly he jumped from his place on the pew to help hold the eight foot long garland. Along its length symbols told a fourteen billion year story, a seamless story, a story of our cosmic communion. At it’s beginning bright red velvet flames marked the first flaring forth of that radiant energy we had claimed as our own in prayer and the birth of the universe. Next cookie-cutters recalled the primal stars. It was from the explosions of these first fireballs had come the mineral rich stardust that would be shaped by winds and gravity into molecules, building blocks of everything in Universe. Conner recognized a blue and white ball hanging at the four and a half billion years mark on the garland as “home”. He liked the dollar-store trees, birds, butterflies, beetles, dinosaurs, horses, whales, bears and chimpanzees that hung after the one billion year marker. Last were miniature dolls. And among the people were some very special babies who grew to be very important teachers. Conner knew it was baby Jesus birthday we were celebrating. What more and more are coming to know, is that Jesus, Grandma, tigers and trees are, essentially, made of that same stardust and radiant energy. The birth narrative of Universe brought me to the end of the garland. And What was next? Conner was beaming as he replied. “ Me!
Conner couldn’t have recognized the cosmic garland as the record of Salvation History integral to the sacrament of Christian communion. Nor could he have said the birth of Jesus was part of the cosmogenesis of the universe. He could not have comprehended the poetry of Thomas Berry, “the universe is a cosmic egg aborning, suffused with creative possibility”. But, in his delightful exclamation of “me” he had expressed the Christmas Eve message of incarnation and claimed his place in the new sacred story, the story of the Cosmos. Nor could he have comprehended the Church’s sacramental theology of bread and wine. What he could understand was he was part of something special. From the faces of those around him, he learned bread and juice were to be savoured. A pre-schooler, he wouldn’t have looked at the crouton and connected it to a nurturing Universe. But as the food was absorbed into his blood stream, literally, he was connected to the magnanamous whole.
From grains, bread connects us to soil and a three billion year old process. Photosynthesis, first begun when ocean organisms, earth’s first populations, with neither brains or bibles, learned how to create a chlorophyll molecule. Since then all biological life is able to trap, store, and convert sun’s energy into food that sustains both the plant and that specie’s place in the food chain. Like the elements connect Christians to the nourishing ways of Jesus, food unites us to our ecology and the life-sustaining ways of nature itself. Communion, it is not only a rite of Christianity, it is the evolutionary levan in the Earth story itself.
Depending on one’s context communion can be understood differently. Even in the culture of the Church there are variations of meaning. The Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation explains it as when the real substance of the bread and wine is changed into that of the body and blood of Christ while the outward appearances remain unchanged. Protestants hold to a dogma of consubstantiation, the difference being the fundamental “substance” of the body and blood of Christ are present with or alongside the bread and
wine, which remain present. What is held in common is the belief that communion is a mystery uniting the recipient with God through the metaphysical gate of Jesus, the Christ.
Scientific Cosmology, however, describes communion within the extensively broader study of the origins, evolution, nature and totality of the Universe. It is understood, along with differentiation and autopiesis or self-manifestation, as one of three governing natures of an ever expanding cosmos. From this perspective, communion is like a theme guiding a story and the theme is inter-dependance. It’s like a direction of a river bound for the sea and its inclination is always union and -ever deepening complexity. From the scientific perspective communion is not an exclusive rite but an inclusive, universal reality. Mutuality, physical cosmology as its also called, is the very intention of all existence.
Can there be any question as to which experience one would choose for Conner? It is not computer science that the life-lesson that will serve him and the planet is one of unity and reverent relationship. Neither is it heresy to say a Christmas Eve Communion must first and foremost, honour the biblical intention of Jesus’ birth, peace on Earth and goodwill among all.
This expanded and expansive idea of unity, some have called it the Christic field, is breaking into post modern consciousness. This growing sense of the universality of humanity, and the interdependency of all planetary beings is being incorporated into educational curiculums, national constitutions, and United Nations declarations of rights.
While some fundamental groups still see science as enemy, new expressions of Christianity are emerging. There are among religious what are known as green nuns. Theologians are writing of quantum theology, eco-spirituality, and evolutionary Christianity. Progressive Christianity is a new denomination. These movements would see no boundaries between the biblical writings and latest scientific wisdom because they read with a hermeneutic of evolution. With evolutionary eyes they interpret life within the context of not only culture, history, or literature, but also evolution.
Take for example a commonly read Christmas Eve text.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being though him.What had come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people…(John 1: 1-4)
The writer, places the birth of Jesus at the origins of creation. This is an example of a religious cosmology. John portrays the creative energy that is translated here as Word, explained as God, and made human in Jesus, as that which makes his followers children of God, what might also be understood as beings of the radiant energy that is light. The text not only sets the scene for the importance of Jesus in the emergence of a more compassionate humanity. It illustrates why the evolutionary cosmologist Brian Swimme and co-author Evelyn Tucker from Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies claim in Journey of the Universe that “communion may be one of the deepest tendencies in the Universe”.
It was a perfect Canadian Christmas Eve. Snow fell softly. Candles and faces were aglow with the mystery and mutuality of it all – Jesus, Santa Clause, and the cosmos. Santa, one milennia’s myth about the magnanimous nature of reality. Jesus, one religion’s story about the saving nature of that divine reality. And Cosmos, that in which the whole of the world and the universe can find at-one-ment. It was an oh so holy night. Even if few were aware of the magnitude of what was happening in the diminutive and diminishing church. It was an evolutionary moment for together, we had participated in the emergence of a new time. . Religion and humanity were being born into their next era. In that new age, Conner and his generation will hold a vital place. To them will come, not the rite of communion that has been the shaping belief of Christianity, for it is the age of the child-less church. What is coming is a consciousness of communion. It is breaking in through, between, and for children of the cosmos.
4 Rev. Dr. Carol Kilby, 10/01/2014
Ritual of Holy Cosmic Communion:
Come with wonder and gratitude
for the Christic field in which we live and move and have our being
We come with thanks and awe,
for the holy communion of all space and time:
for the first flaring forth bringing light in the cosmos,
for minute particles of energy, billions of galaxies, trillions of planetary bodies,
for the emergence of life in the cosmos and on earth, animal and human,
for the holy communion of all hopeful souls
that gather this night in the darkness seeking the light.
Let us come not just awaiting, not only welcoming,
but incarnating the birth of the Christ spirit.
We come no longer waiting on or welcoming from afar, but becoming those that walk in love, stand for justice, and live-as-one with all.
Come celebrating the holy communion for which Jesus was born, lived, and died, and for which the Christ Spirit rose again.
We come celebrating that we are universe, conscious of being one with all,
human beings, choosing to evolve and become a new humanity, creating together a new future.
Come to become what we saw in Jesus humanity could be:
light in the darkness, radiance made flesh and bone and compassion,
bread for the hungry, cup for the thirsty, elements of life and infinite possibility.
Celebrating the Christ light, the creative fire spiraling through the cosmos, ever unfolding more universe, emerging within each of us, we reach out to honour and bless the unique life work of one another, saying,
‘the peace of Christ shine in and through you.” (Sharing greetings and hands in peace.)
For the good news – like the grains of this loaf and the grapes of this juice –
we are one holy communion connected atom with atom, cell with cell, nation with nation, one Earth community with one past and one future –
we come with awe, humility, gratitude, and hope.
Sharing the Bread – Jesus, the way to what we can be
Sharing the Cup – – Christ, the light that shines in the darkness.