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A Connected Universe

Creation as the Body of God

Friday, January 21st, 2022

Our relationship with God is connected to our recognition of Earth’s sacredness, what Richard here describes as “the body of God”:

Christians must realize what a muddle we have got ourselves into by not taking incarnation and creation seriously. Theologian Sallie McFague (1933–2019) powerfully described creation as “the body of God” and the place of salvation. She wrote, “Creation as the place of salvation means that the health and well-being of all creatures and parts of creation is what salvation is all about—it is God’s place and our place, the one and only place.” [1]

In the late fourth century, St. Augustine, recognized by both East and West as a Doctor of the Church, said that “the church consists in the state of communion of the whole world.” [2] When we are in right relationship—we might say “in love”—there is the Christ, the Body of God, and there is the church. But Christians sadly whittled that Great Mystery down into something small, exclusive, and manageable. The church became a Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant private club, one not necessarily formed by people who were “in communion” with anything else, and only rarely with the natural world, with non-Christians, or even with other Christians outside their own denomination.

Our very suffering now, our condensed presence on this common nest that we have largely fouled, will soon be the one thing that we finally share in common. It might well be the one thing that will bring us together politically and religiously. The earth and its life systems, on which we all entirely depend might soon become the very things that will convert us to a simple lifestyle, to necessary community, and to an inherent and universal sense of reverence for the Holy. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. There are no Jewish, Christian, or Muslim versions of these universal elements. All water is “holy water” even before the benefit of a priest’s waved hand. It is always and everywhere two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, and voilà—we have the absolute miracle of liquid water, absolutely necessary for all that lives.

This earth indeed is the very Body of God, and it is from this body that we are born, live, suffer, and resurrect to eternal life. Either all is God’s Great Project, or we may rightly wonder whether anything is.

As Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee writes:

The world is not a problem to be solved; it is a living being to which we belong. The world is part of our own self and we are a part of its suffering wholeness. . . .

It is this wholeness that is calling to us now, that needs our response. It needs us to return to our own root and rootedness: our relationship to the sacred within creation. Only from the place of sacred wholeness and reverence can we begin the work of healing, of bringing the world back into balance. [3]

References:

[1] Sallie McFague, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993), 182.

[2] Augustine, De Unitate Ecclesiae (On the Unity of the Church), 20.56.

[3] Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, “Introduction,” in Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, 2nd ed. (Point Reyes, CA: The Golden Sufi Center, 2013, 2016), v, vi.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Creation as the Body of God,” Radical Grace 23, no. 2 (April–June 2010): 3, 22.

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:

It is easy in these times to see the world as evil, angry, selfish, and violent—so much hate. But those are the loud voices. The quiet voices go softly about the world doing good whenever and where ever they can. They are the Christ light in the world. Many small candles can light up the darkness.
—Kathleen B.

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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