Check out this rock nativity scene! It’s by my new second favorite Christian geologist Juan Cisneros, a Ventura, CA rock sculpture artist. (You can watch a YouTube video of him building the scene – the manger is three feet high.) Here at the Blue Theology Mission Station we rejoice any time God shows up near water.
Seeing the Christmas story told by beach rocks reminded me of my other favorite Christian geologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
What do this contemporary Mexican American and last century Frenchman have in common? Both Juan and Pierre work with rocks and they both seem to love the Incarnation, God becoming flesh and matter.
They are also both sort of Bad Boys, another reason I like them. An interview with Juan reveals some personal challenges in work and lifestyle for which he says the beach and his rocks have been a deep healing place. Teilhard was a brilliant Jesuit scientist (geology and paleontology) and philosopher who was condemned by his church and forbidden to teach or write, accused of being soft on original sin and too radical about the cosmic Christ. Only recently has he been rehabilitated and affirmed – another reason to thank the current Pope. But during all those decades of condemnation Teilhard also found peace and faith with the rocks and the wisdom of creation.
Some favorite Teilhard quotes:
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
“By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers”
“Matter is spirit moving slowly enough to be seen.”
“By virtue of Creation, and still more the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see.”
“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.”
We could call Christmas “Matter Day,” the day we remember (in Teilhard’s words) the mighty matter, reality ever newborn. In other words, the word made flesh. We could call it “Rock Day,” when our Rock and Redeemer laid the foundation. I’ll just call it “Blessed Be You Day,” to the baby, the artist, the scientist, who remind us all matter is holy, and nothing is profane.