Teilhard de Chardin’s mystical “Mass on the World” was performed at Georgetown University April 9, 2015. It was staged to honor its author on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his death. A video of this performance can be seen here. This 28-minute version consists of excerpts taken from the much longer text of the full Mass on the World.
In the summer of 1923 Teilhard de Chardin was working a paleontological dig on the edge of the Ordos Desert in Inner Mongolia. As a priest he had always tried to say Mass daily. So when camping out in primitive conditions made this impossible, his let his mystical sense take hold. The Eucharist for him was more than a matter of consecrating and offering up tokens of bread and wine.
Christs continuing incarnation is not confined to the particle of matter [of bread], he wrote in the trenches of WWI. The transubstantiation is encircled by a halo of divinization that extends to the whole universe. He expands at length on that idea in writing Mass on the World.
The language of “Mass on the World” is deeply steeped in Teilhards persona as a priest of Christ. But throughout his life Teilhard was also able to articulate his vision in ways that people could embrace whether they believed differently or not at all. The sentiments of Mass on the World were echoed in his words, for example, at dawn on New Years Day 1932, when Teilhard led a prayer for his gathered Yellow Expedition colleagues, mostly non-believers.
My dear friends, he said on that occasion, probably, for not one of us here does God mean, or seem, the same thing as for any other of us. But he went on to pray, What we ask of that universal presence which envelops us all, is first to unite us, as in a shared, living, center with those whom we love, those who so far away from us here, are themselves beginning this same new year.
It is in this spirit, knowing that people drawn to the Georgetown assembly hailed from many different traditions, that an abbreviated version of Teilhards long Mass on the World was celebrated.