In these lingering winter days of February amidst an ongoing pandemic, darkened by protests in Canada and political unrest around the planet, we need more than Valentines. This “winter of our discontent” calls out for an exploration of Love at the Heart of the Universe.
We begin with Mary Malone’s poem inspired by the writings of a Medieval Beguine: Hadewijch of Brabant.
Woman God of my Heart,
It is You I know,
You who beckon me into the nameless nights.
By day I scrabble for love
As the little birds of winter scrabble for grain.
But in the night of unfaith,
the long, nameless night,
it is You,
Woman God of love,
it is You,
Woman love of God
that dares me
to open my soul to Your womanly caress,
to expand, blossom, breathe
in the darkness.
Woman God of my Life,
You summon me to newness.
Don’t let newness escape.
She the Lover comes,
She the Lover goes.
Don’t seek stability in this love
but know that only in this love
Will you meet the Woman-being of God
And stroke the Woman-face of God.
Reason has taught me to seek God
where God is not,
in the given names and images and symbols,
in creeds and dogmas and commands.
But Love, the dark being of new love,
teaches me to touch the love being of God Herself.
Woman God of Truth,
Lead me into the newness of unfaith.
Breathe with me through this lightsome darkness.
Lead me through the nameless nights.
Open my spirit to
What joy to be human
and know ever and ever again
the nameless God,
She of the nameless nights.
(Mary T. Malone in Praying with the Women Mystics, Dublin, 2006)
Teilhard de Chardin, brilliant 20th century scientist and mystic, in his book Writings in Time of War (translated by Rene Hague, London: Collins, and New York: Harper & Row, 1968), writes of a feminine presence drawn from the Wisdom literature of the Bible, particularly the Book of Proverbs, (8: 22-31).
In her essay “Sophia: Catalyst for Creative Union and Divine Love” Kathleen Duffy reweaves Teilhard’s writings on the sacred feminine, working through its shining threads new insights from science, wisdom literature and the work of many “who have contemplated the divine creativity at work at the heart of matter.” Duffy names the feminine presence in Teilhard’s poem “Sophia” from the Greek word for Wisdom, and says that Teilhard experienced this presence “with nature, with other persons, and with the Divine.”
He began gradually to recognize her everywhere — in the rocks that he chiseled, in the seascapes and landscapes that he contemplated, and in the faces of the dying soldiers to whom he ministered during the war….Teilhard came to know Sophia as the cosmic Love that is holding all things together.
Teilhard’s poem opens at the beginning of time, at the moment when Sophia is embedded into the primordial energy that is already expanding into the space-time of the early universe. Only half formed and still elusive, she emerges as from the mist, destined to grow in beauty and grace (WTW, 192).
As soon as the first traces of her presence become apparent, she assumes her mandate to nurture creation, to challenge it, to unify it, to beautify it, and ultimately to lead the universe back to God. With this mission as her guide, she attends to her work of transforming the world, a world alive with potential.
Teilhard agreed with Christopher Bamford that “Sophia… can be known only in embodied human actions.”
“Who then is Sophia?” Duffy asks. Here is her magnificent response:
She is the presence of God poured out in self-giving love, closer to us than we are to ourselves, ever arousing the soul to passion for the Divine. From the very depths of matter, she reveals herself to us as the … very nature of God residing within the core of the cosmic landscape.
Attempting always to capture our attention, Sophia peers out at us from behind the stars, overwhelms us with the radiance of a glorious sunset, and caresses us with a gentle breeze….Shining through the eyes of the ones we love, she sets our world ablaze.
Sophia is the mercy of God in us….She sits at the crossroads of our lives, ever imploring us to work for peace, to engage in fruitful dialogue, and to find new ways of connecting with the other. She longs to open our eyes to the presence of pain and suffering in the world, to transform our hearts and to move us to action.
Duffy concludes her luminous essay with these words:
Sophia was the source of Teilhard’s life…. Her constant care for creation during so many billions of years gave him confidence she would continue to be faithful… Teilhard vowed to steep himself in the sea of matter, to bathe in its fiery water, to plunge into Earth where it is deepest and most violent, to struggle in its currents, and to drink of its waters. Filled with impassioned love for Sophia, he dedicated himself body and soul to the ongoing work needed to transform the cosmos to a new level of consciousness and to transformative love.
(from “Sophia: Catalyst for Creative Union and Divine Love” by Kathleen Duffy, SSJ in From Teilhard to Omega edited by Ilia Delio Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York 2014)