Spring 2003

Creation as a Call to Holiness

Stratford Caldecott

Recent years have seen enormous growth in both the New Age and Green movements, and their deep penetration into the mainstream culture. The perceived "threat" of the New Age to Catholic belief and tradition was recently addressed, informatively and with a degree of humor, in the joint document of the Pontifical Councils for Culture and for Interreligious Dialogue entitled Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life. As for the Green movement, the Pope has frequently emphasized ecological themes in his addresses and encyclicals. One way of understanding these linked phenomena is as a popular response to the loss of a sense of human connectedness to the cosmos. A period of Rationalism seems to have left us aliented from the rest of the natural world, and at the same time to have deprived us of a sense of "enchantment"—as though the world presented to us by modern science is too small to encompass our true aspirations. Modern Romantics therefore seek relatedness, community, and transcendence. They seek it, however, not in conventional religion but in the perceived alternatives to hubristic science and "institutional" religion.

From within the Catholic tradition, it is perfectly possible—and indeed increasingly urgent—to recover relatedness, community, and transcendence. This can be done without capitulating to the excesses of modern Romanticism, for indeed the key to all three lies not in any alternative to Christian belief, but in the deeper understanding and implications of Incarnation and Trinity. What modern Catholicism terms the "universal call to holiness" is ultimately a call to unity with God in the life of the Blessed Trinity. That unity is achieved through man (humanity), but it ultimately enfolds and transforms the entire cosmos. It answers the need of the human heart for the supernatural, but at the same time it incorporates the community of natural creatures.


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