For many years, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) has been one of my favorite theologians. He’s been one of my heroes since the mid-80s. But as with other people I admire, I’ve had trouble figuring him out. I’m rediscovering him in 15 Days of Prayer with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by André Dupleix (English translation, 1999). (By the way, click here for the pronunciation of his name.)
When I first discovered this priest and paleontologist, I was fascinated. He was the living embodiment of faith and science that the 20th century had lost. There is much to say about him, but his comments about the resurrection of Jesus are what compelled me today. Teilhard is radically Christocentric—he sees Christ at the very heart of matter itself. His deeply Trinitarian perspective sets him apart from many so-called “new age” movements that claim him as a forerunner.
“But how do we understand the Resurrection?” Dupleix asks. “For Teilhard, in addition to the action of Christ and his work of salvation, the Resurrection has a decisive significance for the evolution of the universe: ‘We seek too much to see the Resurrection as an apologetic and temporary event, like Christ’s short sojourn in the tomb. The Resurrection is something altogether different and much more than that. It is a “formidable” cosmic event. It signifies the actual taking of possession, by Christ, of his functions as the universal Center.’” (p. 11)
This is an affirmation of Paul’s idea of the cosmic Christ which is stated, among other places, in Colossians 1:15-17, where he says that Christ “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
The cosmic Christ isn’t some Christic spirit disconnected from the Jesus of the Bible. To underline that, Dupleix reminds us that for Teilhard, “hope, which the world needs desperately, does not presuppose a flight from earthly realities or a suspicion of the visible or the tangible. To the contrary, hope integrates, into their full dimensions, all of the aspects of history and existence. That is so because Jesus, the eternal Word and the man from Nazareth, was raised from the dead.” (p. 12)
Now that’s some hope you can sink your teeth in!