Over the last week, we’ve spent time hiking the West Coast Trail with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s Hymn to Matter in our minds.
HYMN TO MATTER
Blessed be you, harsh matter, barren soil, stubborn rock: you who yield only to violence, you who force us to work if we would eat.
Blessed be you, perilous matter, violent sea, untameable passion: you who unless we fetter you will devour us.
Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution, reality ever newborn; you who, by constantly shattering our mental categories, force us to go ever further and further in our pursuit of the truth.
Blessed be you, universal matter, immeasurable time, boundless ether, triple abyss of stars and atoms and generations: you who by overflowing and dissolving our narrow standards or measurement reveal to us the dimensions of God.
Blessed be you, impenetrable matter: you who, interposed between our minds and the world of essences, cause us to languish with the desire to pierce through the seamless veil of phenomena.
Blessed be you, mortal matter: you who one day will undergo the process of dissolution within us and will thereby take us forcibly into the very heart of that which exists.
Without you, without your onslaughts, without your uprootings of us, we should remain all our lives inert, stagnant, puerile, ignorant both of ourselves and of God. You who batter us and then dress our wounds, you who resist us and yield to us, you who wreck and build, you who shackle and liberate, the sap of our souls, the hand of God, the flesh of Christ: it is you, matter, that I bless.
I bless you, matter, and you I acclaim: not as the pontiffs of science or the moralizing preachers depict you, debased, disfigured — a mass of brute forces and base appetites — but as you reveal yourself to me today, in your totality and your true nature.
You I acclaim as the inexhaustible potentiality for existence and transformation wherein the predestined substance germinates and grows.
I acclaim you as the universal power which brings together and unites, through which the multitudinous monads are bound together and in which they all converge on the way of the spirit.
I acclaim you as the melodious fountain of water whence spring the souls of men and as the limpid crystal whereof is fashioned the new Jerusalem.
I acclaim you as the divine milieu, charged with creative power, as the ocean stirred by the Spirit, as the clay moulded and infused with life by the incarnate Word.
Sometimes, thinking they are responding to your irresistible appeal, men will hurl themselves for love of you into the exterior abyss of selfish pleasure-seeking: they are deceived by a reflection or by an echo.
This I now understand.
If we are ever to reach you, matter, we must, having first established contact with the totality of all that lives and moves here below, come little by little to feel that the individual shapes of all we have laid hold on are melting away in our hands, until finally we are at grips with the single essence of all subsistencies and all unions.
If we are ever to possess you, having taken you rapturously in our arms, we must then go on to sublimate you through sorrow.
Your realm comprises those serene heights where saints think to avoid you — but where your flesh is so transparent and so agile as to be no longer distinguishable from spirit.
Raise me up then, matter, to those heights, through struggle and separation and death; raise me up until, at long last, it becomes possible for me in perfect chastity to embrace the universe.
Down below on the desert sands, now tranquil again, someone was weeping and calling out: ‘My Father, my Father! What wild wind can this be that has borne him away?’
And on the ground there lay a cloak.
Jersey, 8th August 1919
What an honor it was to spend this time with my dad and Chip (my sister Joyanne’s SO) and such powerful thoughts in such a lovely place. We started in Port Renfrew, crossed the Gordon River by boat, hiked through the caves of Point Owen, followed the twisting, rooting, muddy trail over logs, ladders, and cable cars to the amazing beaches and sandstone shelves of the west side of Vancouver Island.
The hiking was challenging, but to end it all at Nitinat Narrows with a surprise (to us all) 72nd birthday dinner of barbecued salmon, baked potatoes and cold beer was magical.
Happy birthday Dad!
And thank you to Teilhard de Chardin and the West Coast Trail for giving us this opportunity to experience the trinity of spirit, animate and inanimate matter.