By Sister Jean Anne Zappa, OSU
I saw a short video recently about a blind man sitting on the sidewalk with a tin cup and a sign that said, “I am blind, help me.” Needless to say, many people walked right on by him; a few put money in the cup. Then a woman stopped, took out a pen and wrote on the man’ sign. Shortly after she walked on. After that, many people walked up and put money in the man’s cup. The camera zoomed in on the sign– it now reads, “I am blind, help me see this beautiful day.”
This little video tells us about the importance of how we reframe an idea or message. I thought of this as we try to grapple with our chapter mandate: “promote cosmic awareness.” Just the idea or phase alone could overwhelm us and as we explore it more, we could almost shy away from it. Discovery, research, science and technology have expanded the concept for us. Knowing that the universe has been around for over 13 billion years is enough to blow my mind.
However, if we reframe cosmic awareness and begin with some basics of what we already know, I believe it can become an exciting concept to grapple with together, exploring the roots of a mystery, not something we scratch our heads about and don’t know where to begin but an unfolding of infinite, exciting knowledge and deeper understanding.
What helps me to get my arms around the concept is to begin to reflect on what I already know.
Beginning with the Genesis message, creation becomes the first act of salvation, the effortless activity of the one God, absolute transcendent God. The whole visible world came into being by a loving act of God. The productive power of the earth is not self -given, but given by God; for the procreative ability of humans comes from God. All life comes from God, for harmony of the cosmos is because of God’s divine love. Because of this, a special relationship is set up, a special blessing, to be made holy. This intimate relationship on God’s part never ceases. Harmony in creation is God’s blessing and goodness. Cosmos is about outer space and it is also about inner space. In inner space of oneness with our God and each other and the world, and self-—a phrase used to describe spirituality. We talk a lot about “my space, my time”—cosmic awareness is about our space and our time- a oneness we are called to embrace.
Harmony was expressed in the covenant relationship between God and God’s people; communally and individually. Many stories in the Old Testament talk about how the harmony was destroyed by humans and restored by God. The prophets as messengers had the task to help lead the people back to God who restores the harmony.
There are so many Psalms too that reflect a meaning of “cosmos”: When I
re-read the praise Psalms–65, 66, 67,68 they speak differently to me now. Ps. 136, the summary of Genesis and Exodus, most likely written before those two books and
Ps. 138,148, 149, 150 are all descriptions of the cosmos and praise for creation.
Ps. 150 has special meaning to me: When I was a postulant we had holy hour every Thursday, which was the time I mostly cried because I was homesick. But after private time of adoration, I was always thrilled when we sang Ps. 150 because it was not only upbeat, but because it moves us beyond the individual adoration to encompass all of God’s creation. “Praise God in the sanctuary, praise God in the mighty firmament for God’s mighty deeds; praise God according to God’s surpassing greatness. Praise God with trumpet sounds, with lute and harp, with tambourine and dancing, with strings, and loud clashing cymbals. Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.”
Saint Paul also invites me to reflect on cosmic awareness: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for in Him, all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible-all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things and in him all things hold together.”
–Col 1: 15-20
In the last counsel of Saint Angela Merici, she implores us to “live in harmony and union, long for it and embrace it; have no discord or ill will among you.”
And then we have something in our Ursuline Constitutions called the Ursuline Call that reflects cosmic awareness: Introduction: “All creation receives the call to holiness to “be glory to the only God.” The human person is privileged to respond voluntarily and to help all of creation answer the call. True Christian love is the ideal the Ursuline sisters strive for among themselves and with others in their response to the call to holiness. With all Christians they try to achieve in diverse ways perfect harmony in creation and among all persons in Christ.” (Ursuline Call)
As I share this reflection, perhaps the emphasis needs to be more on awareness than on “cosmic,” because we are so intimately bound with each other, God and others in all of creation. So, you see cosmic awareness is not new to us–we are just reframing it, so we can be aware of and see beautiful days and share with others, just like what the blind man’s sign said.