Dear Sir and Friend,
For eight weeks during which I lived without the sacraments (T. returned from a geological excursion in the Shensi and Shansi with Emile Licent s.j.), I did not cease (even at the most painful moments) to take communion with a kind of calm exhilaration, in the Sacrament of the Life animated by God*. Naturally, I recognize that this communion supposes the other as its principle: but it is a necessary generalization of it, a normal radiation, of which I sometimes gnaw at myself for not being able to shout more the richness, and the effectiveness (to balance the soul in the action). – Have I told you that I am more and more struck by the current powerlessness of Christianity to convert ? I have the impression that we are doing the famous trench warfare of 1915, where we pretended to ” nibble”, and where, in fact, we were trampling on the spot. It seems to me that at present, between the great religious currents, a kind of convergence is taking place (on the fundamental notions of divinity, virtue, human ideal…) But I do not yet see the announcement of conversion, that is to say, of that spontaneous, profound, irresistible movement which has characterized, historically, all true spiritual conquests. I conclude that we really need a new ” revelation”; and I wonder if this parousia will not be the discovery that Christ is (in the sense we give to this expression) the World. – Since I see, with evidence, that this is my Messiah, how can I not assume that this is the expectation of other men : we are all the same, especially in depth. – In the meantime, Rome is pushing, with the activity that you know, for the creation of a Chinese Church. The missionaries were unanimous in raising their arms to heaven and declaring the enterprise premature. But what is, historically, the fruit that men have picked ripe ?…
From another point of view, I am curiously impressed, at the moment, by a kind of sense of the smallness of the Earth. Do you realize how disappointing it is (I’m not talking about the ” friendship” question) to not be able to go ” further and further”? One more step, and again we get closer. – And then, this poor earth, really, we begin to have pierced it up to date: its surface (fortunately we still have the bottom!) reminds me of this Indochina bush where you cannot go 50 km without finding a rubber plantation. I find that you start to feel the bars of the cage. – Obviously, in this imprisonment on a ball, humanity finds the factor of a close cohesion, which will weld these elements in the spiritual unity. But at the same time, isn’t there the principle of an immense centrifugal force (still insensitive, but which will be exalted), the need to escape, and to go conquer something else elsewhere ?
Very much so.
Letters to Edouard Le Roy (1921-1946) – Maturation of a thought, Editions Facultés Jésuites de Paris, 2008, p. 64-65.
* At the time of its first geological excursion with Licent, in the desert of Ordos, in 1923.
in the Ordos desert, in 1923,
Teilhard had written his famous Mass on the World. Let’s read again Offering:
Since, once again, Lord, no longer in the forests of Aisne, but in the steppes of Asia, I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will rise above the symbols to the pure majesty of the Real, and I will offer you, your priest, on the altar of the whole Earth, the work and the sorrow of the World.
The sun has just illuminated, over there, the extreme fringe of the first East. Once again, under the moving sheet of its fires, the living surface of the Earth awakens, shudders, and begins its frightening work again. I will place on my paten, O God, the expected harvest of this new effort. I will pour into my chalice the sap of all the fruits that will be crushed today.
My chalice and my paten are the depths of a soul widely open to all the forces which, in a moment, will rise from all the points of the Globe and converge towards the Spirit. – Let them come to me, the memory and the mystical presence of those whom the light awakens for a new day !
One by one, Lord, I see them and love them, those whom you have given me as a support and as the natural charm of my existence. One by one, too, I count them, the members of this other and so dear family that have gathered around me, little by little, from the most disparate elements, the affinities of the heart, of scientific research and of thought. More confused, but all without exception I will evokes, those whose anonymous troop forms the innumerable mass of the living : those who surround me and support me without my knowing them those who come and those who go those especially who, in truth or through error, in their office, in their laboratory or in the factory, believe in the progress of Things, and will passionately pursue the light today.
This restless multitude, troubled or distinct, whose immensity frightens us, – this human ocean, whose slow and monotonous oscillations throw trouble in the most believing hearts, I want that in this moment my being resounds to its deep murmur. All that will increase in the World, during this day, all that will decrease, – all that will die, too, – here is, Lord, what I try to gather in me to offer it to you ; here is the matter of my sacrifice, the only one you want.
In the past, the first fruits of the harvest and the flowers of the herds were brought to your temple. The offering you are really waiting for, the one you mysteriously need every day to satisfy your hunger, to quench your thirst, is nothing less than the growth of the World carried away by the universal becoming.
Receive, Lord, this total Host that Creation, moved by your attraction, presents to you at the new dawn. This bread, our effort, it is of itself, I know it, only an immense disintegration. This wine, our pain, it is still, alas ! that a dissolving drink. But, at the bottom of this shapeless mass, you have put – I am sure, because I feel it – an irresistible and sanctifying desire that makes us all cry out, from the impious to the faithful : ” Lord, make us a ! “
Because, lacking the spiritual zeal and the sublime purity of your Saints, you have given me, my God, an irresistible sympathy for all that moves in the dark matter, – because, irremediably, I recognize in myself, much more than a child of Heaven, a son of the Earth, – I will go up, this morning, in my thoughts, to the high places, loaded with the hopes and the miseries of my mother ; and there, – strong in a priesthood which I believe you alone have given me, – over all that in human Flesh is about to be born or perish under the rising sun, I will call Fire.” Le Coeur de la Matière, T. XIII, Seuil, 1976, p. 141-143.