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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Radical Amazement

Radical Amazement is the name of a new book that I have just added to my list of spiritual books in this blog. It is by Judy Cannato and the full title is "Radical Amazement: Contemplative Lessons From Black Holes, Supernovas, and Other Wonders of the Universe." I discovered it because some of my students in my Online Program in Spirituality Studies mentioned it in connection with the Unit we just finished on Teilhard de Chardin and Emerging Spiritualities of the 20th Century. This book seems to be twenty-first century and is causing me to sit in radical amazement and contemplate our expanding universe, something like the little boy in the picture.
How are we to respond to the information and images that are becoming part of our everyday reality? Judy Cannato suggest awe, wonder, radical amazement, as we encounter the Mystery that is everywhere around us. We "live and move and have our being in the midst of a Mystery that is deeper than ourselves and broader than our own creativity and genius can possible grasp."
The phrase "radical amazement" comes from Abraham Heschel. He said that wonder or radical amazement is the chief characteristic of a religious attitude toward life and the proper response to our experience of the divine.
"Living in radical amazement brings us into the space where great things happen to the soul."(Abraham Herschel quoted by Cannato)

Today is the feast of St. Peter Damian, bishop and doctor of the Church; Peter wanted only to be a monk and a hermit, but he was chosen as abbot and then appointed Cardinal-bishop of Ostia in 1057. He did his best to reform the clergy; Pope Alexander II gave him permission to return to his monastery.
Both the first reading and the psalm for today have the wonderful image of the tree planted beside the waters that "stretches out its roots to the stream...its leaves stay green.." The tree does not feel drought but still bears fruit. I love this image and the trees in Miami remind me of it as the leaves stay green all year! It is amazing but new green leaves appear only to push the old one off the branches.

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