Scripture: Week 2
A School of Relationship
Thursday, March 3, 2016
We all fear and avoid intimacy, it seems. It is too powerful and demands that we also “have faces,” that is, self-confidence, identity, dignity, and a certain courage to accept our own unique face. Once we accept and love ourselves, we must be willing to share this daring intimacy with another. The brilliant title of C. S. Lewis’ book, Till We Have Faces, suggests how central this is; the archetypal myth of Cupid and Psyche reveals the human and divine longing for face-to-face intimacy.
At first the individual is not ready for presence. We settle for tribal customs, laws, and occupations as our identity. Most individuals cannot contain or sustain trust and love by themselves or apart. So God starts by giving the whole group a sense of dignity and identity. YHWH creates “a chosen people”: “You will be my people and I will be your God,” God says to Israel (Jeremiah 32:38). Only the Whole can carry the weight of glory and the burden of sin, never the part. Western individualism is a large part of the ineffectiveness of most contemporary Christianity.
It seems the experiences of specialness and of sinfulness are both too heavy to be carried by an individual. One will disbelieve them or abuse them, either through self-hatred or by ego-inflation and conceit. It is almost impossible for a person to stand before the face of God in a perfect balance between extreme humility and perfect dignity. So God begins with a people “consecrated as God’s very own” (Deuteronomy 14:2). The group holds the Mystery which the individual cannot carry. This eventually becomes the very meaning of “church” or the Body of Christ. Membership in the sacred group should and can become the gateway to personal encounter and inner experience, though too often it is a substitute for it. Please trust me on this.
We could say, “In the beginning was the relationship” or the original blueprint for everything else that exists. John’s word for that was Logos (John 1:1). In other words, the first blueprint for reality was relationality. It is all of one piece. How we relate to God reveals how we eventually relate to just about everything else. And how we relate to the world of “the ten thousand things” is how we are actively relating to God, whether we know it or not (1 John 4:20). How we do anything is how we do everything!
Thus, we must read the whole Bible as a school of relationship. The word trinity, by the way, is never found in the Bible. In time, it became our way to explain how God gradually came to be seen as a communion of persons, a perfect giving and a perfect receiving, an inter-face, a mutual indwelling, or as Charles Williams beautifully called it, “co-inherence.” The Bible is slowly making humanity capable of living inside of such lovely co-inherence. As some mystics daringly put it, all creation is in the end drawn and seduced into the Great Co-inherence, and we are in effect “the Fourth Something” inside the Blessed Trinity. “I shall return to take you with me, so that where I am you also may be too,” Jesus clearly says (John 14:3). Salvation is giving us a face capable of receiving the dignity of the divine embrace, and then daring to think that we could love God back—and that God would enjoy this, or even care about it. I hope the top of your head just blew open!
Gateway to Silence:
“The physical structure of the universe is love.” —Teilhard de Chardin
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 56-57.