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A Resurrection Faith
A Resurrection Faith

A Universal Pattern

Monday, April 1, 2024

Richard Rohr identifies death and resurrection as the universal pattern of Reality: 

Christianity—as well as Buddhism, other religions, and nature-based systems—suggests that the pattern of transformation, the pattern that connects, the life that Reality offers us is not death avoided, but always death transformed. In other words, the only trustworthy pattern of spiritual transformation is death and resurrection. Christians learn to submit to trials because Jesus told us that we must “carry the cross” with him (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 14:27). Buddhists do it because the Buddha very directly said that “life is suffering.” Buddhism teaches us how to skillfully discern the source of suffering, detach from our expectations and resentments, and let go of illusion. 

Death and life are two sides of the same coin; we cannot have one without the other. Each time we choose to surrender, each time we trust the dying, our faith is led to a deeper level, and we discover a Larger Self underneath. We decide not to push to the front of the line, and something much better happens in the back of the line. We let go of narcissistic anger, and we find that we start feeling much happier. We surrender our need to control our partner, and finally the relationship blossoms. Yet each time it is a choice—and each time it is a kind of dying. It seems we only know what life is when we know what death is. 

The mystics and great saints were those who had learned to trust and allow this pattern, and often said in effect, “What did I ever lose by dying?” Or try Paul’s famous one-liner: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Now even scientific studies reveal the same universal pattern. Things change and grow by dying to their present state, but each time it is a risk. We always wonder, “Will it work this time?” So many academic disciplines are coming together, each in its own way, to say there’s a constant movement of loss and renewal at work in this world at every level. It seems to be the pattern of all growth and evolution. To be alive means to surrender to this inevitable flow. It’s the same pattern in every atom, every human relationship, and in every galaxy. Indigenous peoples, Hindu gurus, Buddha, Moses, Muhammad, and Jesus all saw it clearly in human history and named it as a kind of “necessary dying.” 

If this pattern is true, it has been true all the time and everywhere. Such seeing did not just start two thousand years ago. All of us have to learn to let go of something smaller so something bigger can happen. But that’s not a religion—it’s highly visible truth. It is the Way Reality Works. 

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (New York: Convergent, 2019, 2021), 218–219. 

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Untitled (detail), Washington, 2020, photograph, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image. The first rays of sun caressing our faces remind us of the importance of new beginnings, of waiting, of awe. 

Story from Our Community:  

For me, the two most amazing physical adventures of being human are birth and death. We have little awareness and control of our attitude toward being born. However, we can control our attitude and awareness of death. My belief in the resurrection and an eternal relationship with God excites me—and gives me confidence that Sister Death is the gateway to a deeper relationship with God. I look forward to my second human adventure with optimism and joy. May God continue to look on us and give us peace.
—Hugo B. 

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