Finisterre: Love in the Cosmos; Supernova Grace

A pledge to keep walking beyond where I have once called home, onto where I am challenged to change, reconcile, surrender, and create in ways I hadn’t imagined.

Have you ever looked at the night sky and thought, “It is loving us.” I hadn’t. But the book I mentioned in my last post called Cosmogenesis by Brian Swimme is proposing that reality! As I continue to explore how cosmogenesis broadens my spiritual understanding of the universe and myself, I come bumping up again to Love–from a scientific viewpoint, a Christian viewpoint, a mystical viewpoint and a cosmological viewpoint. And in this moment, they all fit. Love is that big. If you are reading this blogpost, I want to confess that I am writing it for me. I’m trying to understand what I already know and what the universal intelligence is wanting to transmit to me–via those who have asked the same questions, but also to access my own way of knowing that has been within me from the beginning of time.

Thomas Berry, Catholic priest and ecological activist, was preaching in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City when he said, “The universe, along with Planet Earth, both in themselves and in their evolutionary emergence, constitute the primary revelation of that ultimate mystery whence all things emerge into being. The most spectacular unveiling since the birth of the universe is the supernova explosion.”

I didn’t understand what he meant by that. What happened in a supernova explosion, that is, the explosion of a star? I had seen and marveled at the pictures from the Hubble telescope of supernovas. But what is unveiled in that explosion? He went on to explain that “a chemical alchemy takes place in the core of every star. The atoms of carbon are created by stars and poured out into the Milky Way. The creativity of the stars is the one and only way carbon is constructed in the universe, which means each carbon atom in our bodies came from a star.”

Okay. Stop. So there were no carbon atoms before this strange star alchemy–alchemy meaning the transformation of matter. Carbon wasn’t there at the beginning. Stars created it. I think my small human brain has to just sit here and take that in.

Berry goes on to correlate it in a spiritual sense to grace–that is, by the grace of the stars we exist. “Did the universe ask us to pay for this? No”, he says. ” Have we done anything to merit this cosmic grace? No. Stars are bestowers of grace. We are their offspring.”

Just when I was going to question if stars could know they were giving birth to us, Berry goes on to say that in one sense it is true to say that they didn’t know. “But it is wrong to say they did not know. They know how to create carbon, silver, boron, and calcium. They know how to participate in the ongoing development of the universe. They know how to fulfill their role in this spectacular process.” Again, I stopped reading. Do I know my role in this process? And haven’t I been seeking that very thing in all my spiritual seeking?

I’m reminded of Joni Mitchell’s song lyrics of “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get back to the garden.” How strange to put these words that join this scientific fact with a cryptic reference to Eden–the garden at the beginning of creation.

Berry’s following words, “The central revelation is its irreversible gift-giving. This gift requires the star’s death. This extravagant gift-giving is the spirituality of the universe. It is a form of cosmic love that enables the future to emerge.”

I am no longer an orthodox Christian, but I experience the extravagant gift-giving of the love of Christ. Some call it kenosis–an emptying of Christ’s self. I can’t help but make this comparison between that story and Berry’s story of the supernova. It’s so interesting that I am coming to this as Holy Week in the Christian tradition begins in two days–a week that includes a willing death that emerges into life and the future, not the end. The death of a star; the death of Jesus.

I sit here pondering truths I’ve been told. I sit pondering what is my truth. I sense more and more that it all belongs. If grace and generosity and a giving of oneself is at the heart of creation, what am I willing to let die in order for the future to emerge? I am not separate from the stars I gaze at in the night sky. The stars that I now regard with new understanding, as my progenitors–that in their way of knowing, loved me into being.

The last line of Comosgenesis reads, when we look out at the night sky, we are looking at that which is looking.

More to come. I haven’t got to Julian of Norwich yet.

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