To conclude his sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Bishop Michael Curry[1] read the famous quote from the Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, humankind will have discovered fire.”[2]

Teilhard is one of the more controversial figures of the Roman Catholic Church; for most of his ministry he was prohibited by the curia for teaching since his views were at odds with the official doctrines of the church.  Teilhard was born in 1881 in France and died in 1955 in New York.  He was both a theologian and a scientist; his writing sought to bridge the divide between those two worlds as he not only championed the idea of evolution but also saw the universe as the expression of divine life.[3]  Once, while on a scientific research trip in China he found himself in a wilderness area without bread or wine or altar to celebrate the Mass, Teilhard wrote: “I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labours and sufferings of the world.” He prayed, “Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day say again the words: This is my Body.”[4]

In his evolutionary theology he saw the development of a geosphere (the planet), a biosphere (organic life), and finally the emergence of what he called the noosphere — from the Greek word nous, or mind — a sphere of conscious awareness, which finds its greatest outlet and expression in humanity. For Teilhard, the next phase of evolution would be primarily within the noosphere, and it was here that he located the work of Christ: the initiation of a new force of love within the consciousness of the planet, unfolding as the deepening Incarnation of God.  In this light, Christianity becomes not simply a path of ascent to God, but a path flowing out from God, as God flows more and more fully into form.[5]

And this is of course where our celebration of St. Mary links in today because the story of her being chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus is an evolutionary leap forward in the development of what Teilhard called the noosphere — that third dimension of earth’s reality where awareness of God’s presence penetrates and transforms our consciousness.  God in Christ comes into the earth through a woman her story and especially her song reveals what it is that the power of God seeks to express in this world.  According to her song, known as the Magnificat, the power of God’s agenda is to make this world a place where all human beings are clothed with the dignity of the children of God.  Her song imagines nothing short of a revolutionary reordering of society: listen to what her song proclaims, “God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”[6]

This is God’s dream for the earth, coming to us, through the noosphere; it is the same God who sang through Isaiah, “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together.[7] This is a vision of the great levelling out of human life — a vision of equity and justice.  This is the vision of Paul who wants us to understand that we are all God’s children by adoption and grace.  In other words, we all have a part to play in God’s coming into form in the world.  Our spiritual work is to be part of this evolutionary movement of God in the world — in Teilhard’s words, “Each of us is our own little microcosm in which the Incarnation is wrought independently.”  To assist us as we grasp the importance of spirituality there is no better exemplar than blessed Mary, the Theotokos, the one who gave God birth.

Even the most casual observer of western art is astounded with how many depictions there are of Mary.  In our recent travels, this refrain began to repeat in my mind, “For every Christ, a Mary.” Her image is everywhere in western art.  You see Mary as the young woman astonished with the announcement by the angel that she was to be the Christ bearer.  You see her in the scenes of his birth and you see her at the cross, especially in the Pieta, holding the body of her crucified son.  She brings him to birth, she holds him in death and by tradition she continues to follow him in his resurrected life.

God comes to us not only in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ but also through his mother, blessed Mary who first sings the song that Christ’s life and gospel will proclaim.

There is substantial agreement between Anglicans and Roman Catholics on the importance of Mary in the life of the church.  A statement by the Anglian Roman Catholic Commission issued in Seattle just a few years ago celebrates our shared understandings of her role and importance.  In one section the authors comment, “Issues of justice for women and the empowerment of the oppressed have arisen from daily reflection on Mary’s remarkable song. Inspired by her words, communities of women and men in various cultures have committed themselves to work with the poor and the excluded. Only when joy is joined with justice and peace do we rightly share in the economy of hope and grace which Mary proclaims and embodies.”[8]

In Nazareth, at the site where the angel appeared to Mary, you find the Basilica of the Annunciation.[9] In a large upper church the walls are covered with mosaics, 43 of them, all depicting the annunciation.  These mosaics are from 43 different countries and each has shown this scene of Mary and the angel using images from the myriad of world cultures: European, African, American, Asian — it is a remarkable panorama of how her story has influenced culture after culture.  It is a powerful sign of Teilhard’s noosphere, a spiritual consciousness that encircles this geosphere and the biosphere and that finds its way into your heart and mind this day.

Whenever you long for things to be better in the world, whenever your heart is moved with compassion for another, whenever you are made angry because of injustice or cruelty, whenever the inequities of the world or the treatment of the earth so trouble you as to lead you to active peaceful resistance then your life has been touched by the same angel that announced to Mary that she was to bring the Christ to birth in the world.   For — as Father Matthew Wright puts it, “Each of our lives is potentially a deepening of the disclosure and a completing of the Incarnation of God. We serve — and become — this disclosure through the evolutionary energies of love.”[10]

In her poem The Annunciation, Denise Levertov asks this question: “Aren’t there annunciations of one sort or another in most lives?”[11]  Where, in your life, do you perceive the gentle call of God to say “yes” to God’s dream for the world?  What promptings are moving you today to be a bearer of the incarnation of God?  As we meditate of St. Mary this day, let us open our hearts to be inspired by her example and seek to be God’s agents of the evolutionary energies of love and once again discover fire.


[1] You can find Bishop Curry’s sermon here

[2] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Toward the Future, translated by Rene Hague. New York: Doubleday Image Book, 1959

[3] Read more about Teillhard here

[4] Teilhard de Chardin. Hymn of the Universe. New York: Harper and Row, 1965

[5] Matthew Wright. Teilhard de Chardin: Apostle of the Incarnate God

[6] Luke 1:46-55 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

[7] Isaiah 40:4-5

[8] Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ: The Seattle Statement Anglican – Roman Catholic Commission


[10] Matthew Wright. Teilhard de Chardin: Apostle of the Incarnate God