Athanasius in Spring

Memorial of Saint Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
May 2, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Athanasius, and since our readings repeat themes we have prayed with for a few days, I thought we might focus our prayer today on Athanasius.

Living in 4th century Egypt, Athanasius was a Church Father – one of the ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers who established the intellectual and doctrinal foundations of Christianity. (For insight into the often uncelebrated Church Mothers, see this excellent article: )

During his lifetime, the Church struggled with the heresy of Arianism which questioned whether Jesus was really God. Athanasius was named a Doctor of the Church for his steadfast defense of the doctrine of the divinity of Christ. Some of Athanasius’s writings are suggestive of the theology of our great modern theologians, and so necessary for our spirituality today.

The Self-revealing of the Word
is in every dimension –
above, in creation;
below, in the Incarnation;
in the depth, in Hades;
in the breadth, throughout the world.
All things have been filled
with the knowledge of God.

St. Athanasius

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the revered Jesuit theologian of the early 20th century, writes in a tone suggestive of Athanasius:

If we live at a distance from God, the universe remains neutral or hostile to us. But if believe in God, immediately all around us the elements, even the irksome, organize themselves into a friendly whole, ordered to the ultimate success of life.

Pierre de Chardin, SJ in Christianity and Evolution

More recently, beloved Pope Francis teaches with the same sacred appreciation of the “mystical” depths of Creation:

The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things.

Pope Francis in Laudato Sí, 84)

As we pray in these early days of May, still drenched in the glory of Easter, may we hear God speaking to us in the infinitely new and ever-evolving power and beauty of all Creation.

The occurrence of chance in the world in its own finite way reflects the infinite creativity of the living God, endless source of fresh possibilities. The indwelling Creator Spirit grounds not only life’s regularities but also the novel occurrences that open up the status quo, igniting what is unexpected, interruptive, genuinely uncontrolled, and unimaginably possible. As boundless love at work in the universe, the Spirit embraces the chanciness of random mutations, being the source not only of order but also of the unexpected breaks in order that ensure freshness. Divine creativity is much more closely allied to the outbreak of novelty than our older order-oriented theology ever imagined

Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ – Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University in her book, Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love

Poetry: Spring – Mary Oliver

a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring
down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring
I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue
like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:
how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge
to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else
my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,
it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;
all day I think of her -—
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

Music: Spring from The Four Seasons – Antonio Vivaldi

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