Secular Hope

Secular Hope

Is secularism the last word?  Is God dead?  The banal God is dead.  The God of rules and the forbidden, and of narrow definitions.  The god of fundamentalism is dead.  No longer can we spout God-talk and be taken seriously in the public forum.  Good riddance to that version of God.  No.  God is more hidden.  Deep faith, hope, and love are our lifelines. 

Modern Catholic philosophers have a hard time not getting theological.  We have run out of natural objects of observation.  Psychology has need of the transcendent for real meaning and healing.  French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas describes the human Face as a vulnerable entrance to the transcendent, the eternal, and so engaging the Face of another should be the occasion of our deep reverence as well as responsibility. 

Tomas Halik lived in Communist Czechoslovakia as part of the underground Church.  As a philosopher, priest, teacher and writer his voice is valued today.  He claims that God, who found no place in modern autonomous culture, can find an even highly respectable place in the postmodern world, not on the fringe but in the very heart of reality, it its depths.  God within, in the deepest creative core of the cosmic process.  This world is sacred as it is the ongoing self-revelation of the sacred mystery that we call “God.”  Now it is necessary to question the depths or stagnate on the surface. So how can we anticipate the closeness of God? By longing, longing and thirst, which should deepen and be purified in the night of faith.  According to John of the Cross, Halik says, thirst is our only light.

In our new day, then, what are the most necessary things?  I cite two:  a personal presence to God; and a way of relating to others that is reverent and given and responsible.  For a model of living personal presence we can look to the young Carmelite saint, Elizabeth of the Trinity, who prays: “O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity…May I be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative Action…”

There is a way of behaving that can be totally selfless, when we are docile to the needs and the good of the other despite our personal preferences.  A flat out givenness such as Madame Acarie lived in a marriage she never especially wanted.

Even our secular world is turning toward a new focus willing to let go of simply worrying about a Gross National Product.  Influential leaders are asking: what about aiming instead for a goal that honors ecological life-supporting systems such as freshwater supplies, air pollution, sustainability, and so on, as well as social foundations that include health, education, housing, social equity and more.  (This concept is referred to as the doughnut model.  Cf. simple diagram)  Is it possible to ask the people of our time for self-sacrifice?  Reverence for each individual. 

If we truly want a semblance of unity Teilhard de Chardin claimed that the only force strong enough to unify us is love.  The deep substantial kind. Is now the moment when the Spirit can find entry to begin building a civilization of love?  What am I prepared to do?

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