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Center for Action and Contemplation

A Dynamic Unity

Sunday, January 16, 2022

For Father Richard Rohr, the Universal Christ reveals a united and connected universe full of God’s presence:

Please do not think me a heretic, but it is formally incorrect to say “Jesus is God,” as most Christians glibly do. For Christians, the Trinity is God, and Jesus is a third something—the union of “very God” with “very human.” This dynamic unity makes Jesus the Exemplar, pledge, and guarantee, the “pioneer and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Recognizing this means there is much less need to “prove” that Jesus is God (which of itself asks nothing of us). Our true and deep need is to experience the same unitive mystery in ourselves and in all of creation—“through him, and with him, and in him” as we pray in the Great Amen of the Eucharist. This is how Jesus “saves” us and what salvation finally means. The spiritual and the material are one.

There were clear statements in the New Testament about the cosmic meaning to Christ [1], and the communities taught by Paul and John were initially overwhelmed by this message. In the early Christian era, only some few Eastern Fathers (such as Origen of Alexandria and Maximus the Confessor) cared to notice that the Christ was clearly something older, larger, and different than Jesus himself. They mystically saw that Jesus is the union of human and divine in space and time, and the Christ is the eternal union of matter and Spirit beyond time. But the later centuries tended to lose this mystical element in favor of dualistic Christianity. We lost our foundational paradigm for connecting all opposites.

Since we could not overcome the split between the spiritual and the material within ourselves, how could we then possibly overcome it for the rest of creation? The polluted earth, extinct and endangered species, tortured animals, nonstop wars, and constant religious conflicts have been the result. Yet Jesus the Christ has still planted within creation a cosmic hope, and we cannot help but see it in so many unexplainable and wonderful events and people.

For some Christians, the split is overcome in the person of Jesus. But for more and more people, union with the divine is first experienced through “the Universal Christ”—in nature, in moments of pure love, silence, inner or outer music, with animals, or a primal sense of awe. Why? Because creation itself is the first incarnation of Christ, the primary and foundational “Bible” that reveals the path to God.

Our encounter with the eternal Christ mystery started about 13.8 billion years ago in an event we now call the “Big Bang.” God has overflowed into visible Reality and revealed God’s self in trilobites, giant flightless birds, jellyfish, pterodactyls, and thousands of species that humans have never once seen. But God did.  And that was already more than enough meaning and glory.

References:

[1] See Colossians 1, Ephesians 1, John 1, 1 John 1, and Hebrews 1:1–4; note all are in the first chapters!

Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2014), 220–224.

Explore Further. . .

Image Credit: Brian McLaren, Untitled 7-9 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.

The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to Brian McLaren as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. His photos are featured here in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image Inspiration: We often look up to appreciate the universe, but this massive universe is not only above us. It’s also under us, around us, and in us. It connects us all—stars, palm plants, grasses, humans and turtles alike.

Story from Our Community:

The necessity of relationship and connection resonates with me as truth. I’ve been struck in times of crisis by the power of one person to lift up. I was brought to tears in a busy store by the checkout person’s kindness and empathy as I struggled to unload heavy items. She gently did it herself, even though it wasn’t her job. She was Christ in that moment.
—Jo S.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

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