Matter and the three holiest days of Christians


By Fr J.C. Pieris,


The Christian mysteries of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday acutely illustrate the Teilhardian concept of matter evolving into life, into human consciousness and finally into divinity. On Thursday food (matter) turns into the body of Jesus (Eucharist), on Friday we witness the suffering body of Jesus, or conscious matter in an evolutionary struggle and on Sunday we witness the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ or the glorification of matter (Jordan Peterson, professor of clinical psychology, Canada) or divinization of matter.

When we began Lent on Ash Wednesday smearing ash on our foreheads the Church told us: Thou art dust and to dust shalt thou return. We conclude the Lent joyfully celebrating the Resurrection of the body of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday and the Church tells us: You are not dust!

Holy Thursday and Food.

On Holy Thursday we celebrate a meal. It is the Last Supper of Jesus. It is about food. All food we intake are matter. Matter transforms into our bodies or, in other words, into conscious human beings. "And as they were eating, he (Jesus) took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, "This is my blood …" –Mark 14/22-24. Not only food, the air we breathe and the water we drink is all matter. We turn matter into consciousness. In us, on this Earth, the whole Cosmos of mute and blind matter becomes conscious of itself and the universe around it. What an exhilarating noble thought! What an enormous and a grave responsibility!

If only humanity becomes aware of this magnificent and incredible Truth it will kneel before one another and wash one another’s feet. "Jesus … rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded." John 13/3-5. We shall kneel before not only other humans respecting, protecting and loving them but also before all life, all flora and fauna and all matter, the soil on which we stand, the atmosphere we breathe, our oceans, rivers, lakes and fountains, respecting them, protecting them and loving them.

Good Friday and Suffering.

Being conscious matter is no bed of roses. Siddhartha Gautama, Lord Buddha, undeniably and with crystal clarity showed us the Truth; human life is suffering. On Friday, with tears in our eyes, pain in our hearts and despair in our souls, we watch a totally innocent and a good man, unjustly sentenced to the most cruel torture and death on earth by the vile powers that were, the Jewish and Roman leaders, priestly, political and military. But the suffering we are reflecting on is not confined only to the passion of Jesus. It is the suffering of his whole life. "And he (Jesus) called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Mark 8/34. The cross, or the suffering of Jesus, was not limited only to the wooden cross on Golgotha. All human life is suffering but "Whoever would save his life (chase after the pleasures and comforts of life) will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s (accepting suffering for the ideals of Jesus and the Kingdom of God) will save it." Mark 8/35. Suffering, taken on as positive means to a glorious end, evolutionarily conducts conscious matter towards its glorification and divinization.

Easter Sunday and Glorification.

The evolutionary trajectory, according to Teilhard de Chardin, is pointing towards a future where conscious matter becomes divine. He would call it the Omega point and it is a projection. The projection seems to be acceptable. The bodily Resurrection of Jesus, believed by over a billion people, is the Christian understanding of the future of the universe, of human beings and of the future of matter.

We are used to looking at the universe from the earth, so much so that once upon a time we foolishly thought it is the centre of the universe. But how do we and our planet look like when seen from some far off point in the distant universe?

Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles, 40.5 AU), as part of that day's Family Portrait series of images of the Solar System. In the photograph, Earth's apparent size is less than a pixel; the planet appears as a tiny dot against the vastness of space, among bands of sunlight reflected by the camera.

Voyager 1, which had completed its primary mission and was leaving the Solar System, was commanded by NASA to turn its camera around and take one last photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space, at the request of astronomer and author Carl Sagan. And this is what he says about the pale blue dot.

"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.Our posturing, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known." – January 25, 2010.

It is truly humbling to know our Earth is an ignoble inconspicuous speck of dust seen from the far off universe. But to realize that it is only we (as far as we presently know) who were privileged to turn matter into life and then into consciousness, making the universe of matter conscious of itself, is such an incredible and soul uplifting thought we are filled with gratitude. And we are moved with wonder contemplating the human trajectory aiming at the divinization of matter. It is this glorious Finale of matter that the bodily Resurrection of Jesus confirms in faith on Easter Sunday. It is the ultimate Glorification of the primodial humble matter of the universe.



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