The Body of Christ is the Entire Universe
We commissioned the artist
Br Mickey McGrath to create an image of Thomas Berry for us.
This is his creative rendition.
His reflection is below.
“THE BODY OF CHRIST IS THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE”
Michael O’Neill McGrath,OSFS
What an unusual and unprecedented time in history to receive this commission, and what a great blessing it proved to be for me, personally. I would like to share here my use of the symbols that slowly evolved as I was doing my research and creating my initial sketches and ideas.
To immerse myself in Thomas Berry’s spirit, I re-read The Christian Future and the Fate of the Earth, a collection of his essays which I had purchased several years ago. I was surprised (and amazed) to realize how much of the book was already highlighted and underlined from my initial reading. So much information that I forgot I already knew made it that much easier for me to make new connections- “connecting” being the key theme at the heart of this artwork.
From the very start, I knew that two elements would be central to the finished piece: 1.) that Thomas would be sitting under a tree, ( I hadn’t yet seen a photo of him giving a lecture as he sat beneath a tree); and 2.) that a quote from his writings would somehow be incorporated.
Right at this time of gathering ideas and using his essays for my morning meditation reading, a dear friend who is a certified gardener gifted me with a potted plant- which is the descendent of a cutting from a plant first grown and nurtured by Albert Einstein when he lived in Princeton, NJ! I have never named a plant before, but “Albert” is now thriving on the porch of my home- and even produces tiny pink blossoms! As a result, that is Albert Einstein’s plant which Thomas holds in his lap like a Madonna and Child.
The tree symbolically displays all four seasons at the same time suggesting the passage of time, our deaths and re-births, and our ongoing evolution and growth spurts as physical and spiritual beings.
Like Moses, Thomas has removed his shoes to respect the sacredness of the earth as holy ground. His shoes are moccasins to make a connection to Native American spirituality and the influence of Lakota Nicholas Black Elk on his thinking.
“If you understand Black Elk’s teaching you will understand mine, the continuity of the human with the natural world in a single creative community.” (Thomas Berry)
At the very heart of Lakota spirituality is the belief that “We are all related”- not only people to people, but people to all creatures, and indeed, to all of creation: We are all one in the Great Spirit. For the Lakota, trees, especially cottonwoods, hold special significance as reminders of God’s presence in our midst.
Finally, the quote had to be just the right one to tie it all together: the starry sky above Thomas and the stream of water below and behind him; the roots of the tree and the green shoots in the ground from Albert’s plant at his unshod feet; the Holy Spirit looks over his shoulder while perched on a bare winter branch.
Image by Brother Michael O’Neil McGrath, OFSF
Thomas Berry, a man of prophetic vision and wisdom understood the true connections throughout all creation. This vision inspired him to write
“The Body of Christ is intimately the entire universe.”
Thomas Berry, “The Third Mediation”