The Mysterium Convivium and the Gospel of Creation

The word animal is an unsaying word. It unsays more than it says. In fact, it cannot truly say. There is a limit on what it can say. It cannot say the entire diversity of all the species of animals. The recognition of limits and creaturely peculiarities of every animal as well as species unsays the vast category of “animal”. This fact indeed tells us that human language unsays the names humans create. This may be the reason we have to admit that every human saying is also actually an unsaying. We say to unsay. In everything that is said there remains a lot unsaid as well as unsayable. This is why we have to consider the limits between what we say as the ‘human’ and the ‘animal’.

Critical thinking has to embrace radical limitrophy and radical relationality in order to read the gospel of creation in the human-animal ‘living together’. Perhaps, the imaging of the Holy Spirit as a dove might open us to the gospel of creation proclaimed by Pope Francis in his encyclical, Laudato Si. This turn to the dove ( animal) and its imaging of the Holy Spirit can open us to view the Holy Spirit as the living Other amidst the living and dying (independent and vulnerable) relations of human-animal and the creaturely world. It is the immanent Spirit of God in his creation that will enable us to read the gospel of creation.

The Holy Spirit as Lord and giver of life (Nicene Creed) can lead us to see how all creatures are created in an image of Spirit-with them in the dusty flesh of the earth. This creation, therefore, is a mysterium convivium, a mysterious conviviality of life together. Hence, the Holy Spirit becomes a matrix of convivial interaction between creatures, working in the suffering, play, and work of creatures together. Pneuma is elemental, animating together, rather than confined to human corners of theologies that try to catch the work of the Holy Spirit through categories of pneumatologies. This means the Holy Spirit inhabits the whole of life in life’s concreteness, animating with the peculiar animality of singular creatures, exploding in the heterogeneity of life in its interaction with humanity and the rest of creation. We may see how the Holy Spirit speaks in multiple tongues through the dance and drama of creation as we stand in faith and awe at the unfolding of the mysterium convivium.

To come to an understanding of this mysterium convivium, it might assist us to humbly introduce a category that simultaneously says and unsays. We may say and unsay accepting our finitude before the mystery of the divine, the mysterium convivium as the Holy Spirit’s wild immanence in the creative dance of creation. To decode this creative dance or the gospel of creation, we might begin to think of Holy Spirit as an incarnation of Divine Wilderness. We all know that wilderness is a remarkable theological metaphor: Biblical wilderness cannot be forgotten. Even Jesus is driven into the wilderness. We can also see the way of the cross, the holy passion and death on the cross with the metaphor of love, a wilderness. When we employ this category of love as wilderness to capture the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, we both say and unsay about the very nature of human love to understand the depth of the divine love expressed in Jesus Christ.

Maybe we can see with eyes of faith the spirited flourish and abundance of the creation as the manifestation of the unfolding mysterium convivium as the divine love , a wilderness. We need this image of wilderness in order to unsay any trace of an impression that may be given that this reading of the gospel of creation is framing/ caging the Holy Spirit in human words that can only say within our limitrophy and relationality. The divine wilderness that we have evoked here is far removed from the nature/ culture binary. We are not to see the images of wildness as “set apart” or “in the wild” in the light of the nature/culture binary. What we say is the wilderness is the manifestation of otherness that God brings into our life. Hence, with its blooming wildness, divine wilderness occurs when the Holy Spirit undoes us by exposing the strange alterity of our everyday spaces. This is why we have to link our image of wilderness with love. This being done in the touchability , fleshiness, leafiness, and rockiness of creation, we can encounter the wild other who is incarnating the divine love in the wilderness.

The metaphor of the love, a wilderness enables us to present the image of the divine that proliferates through all creatures—from particular specks of dust to quarks to a particular herd of elephants to this particular human. It is in this dynamism of the dance of creation that we can trace the alphabets of the gospel of creation. To come to this reading of the gospel of creation we have to choose to embrace the horizontal mode of thinking that will enable us to follow the gushing movements of creation that do indeed become the sacramental visualization of wild immanence of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and the giver of life. We can also these this dance of divine and creaturely in the image of the dove that not just portrays innocence but also freedom and abundance of the divine.

We do remain humble and resist all temptation to tame the mystery of the perichoretic movement of Spirit-breath in the creation. The Holy Spirit resists all forms of domestication as it moves, plays, bends, dives, and bursts forth in the creaturely world. This is why we may have to come to a leap of consciousness that accepts the way we believe that God’s revelation in all fullness through the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit , we also have the challenge to come to bow down the mysterium convivium unfolding in the creation through the same Holy Spirit. It is only with the eyes of faith that we can see the mysterious finitum capax infiniti, the finite bearing the infinite. The Holy Spirit makes infinite God visible in the finite world. It is through this dynamic and vivifying dance of creation that we can read the gospel of creation.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao