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Center for Action and Contemplation
We Are One and Many
We Are One and Many

Divine Diversity and Oneness

Thursday, February 10, 2022

During a CAC conference on the Trinity, Richard spoke about how the three-in-one God shows God’s love for diversity:

God clearly loves diversity. All we need to do is look at the animal world, or the world under the sea, or each human being: who of us looks exactly alike? We are always different. Is there any evidence to show where, in all creation, that God prefers uniformity? But we consistently confuse uniformity with spiritual unity.

The mystery that we’re talking about is revealed in the Trinity: the three are maintained as diverse, different and distinct, and yet they are radically “One”! The foundational philosophical problem has been called the problem of the one and the many. How can there be one and how can there be many? In the Trinity, we have the paradox at least metaphorically resolved. But most of us don’t easily know how to be both diverse and united. We want to make everybody the same. And the church has become more and more an exclusionary institution, instead of a great banquet feast to which Jesus constantly invites sinners and outcasts.

The ego is much more comfortable with uniformity, people around me who look and talk like me, and don’t threaten my boundaries. But in the presence of the Trinitarian God, God totally lets go of boundaries for the sake of the other. Each accepts full acceptance by the other.

In an article for Sojourners, Richard writes about how understanding the Trinity can heal our tendency to “other” people who are different than ourselves:

I believe racism is often rooted in [a] distorted view of divinity; rather than reflecting the One who created all things in God’s own “image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26–27), we instead make God into a mascot who, as Anne Lamott brilliantly quips, hates all the same people we do. [1] . . .

It took them [early church fathers] three centuries to make full sense out of Jesus’ often-confusing language about what he named “Father,” how he understood himself, and what he named the “Holy Spirit.” Our common form of dualistic thinking just could not process such three-fold and one-ness evocations at the same time. . . .

The Godhead itself maintains separate identity between Three, with an absolutely unique kind of unity, which is the very shape of Divine Oneness.

God’s pattern and goal has never been naïve uniformity but radical diversity (1 Corinthians 12:4–6) maintained in absolute unity by “a perfect love” that infinitely self-empties and infinitely outpours—at the same time.

This Divine pattern is, of course, most beautifully revealed in “all the array [pleroma, or fullness] of creation” (Genesis 2:1). God is forever “making room” and “infilling”; this is the Way of the Flow. This is, in our finite understandings, an utterly new logic and is the foundational template for the success of the human project for those ready to embrace at the level of experience what they already confess in [their] creeds. [2]

[1] Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005), 220.

[2] Richard Rohr, “How God as Trinity Dissolves Racism,” Sojourners, August 25, 2016.

Adapted from Richard Rohr and Cynthia Bourgeault, The Shape of God: Deepening the Mystery of the Trinity, disc 3 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2004), DVD, CD, MP3 download.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Barbara Holmes, Untitled 24 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States, used with permission. Warren K. Leffler, View of the huge crowd, 1963 (detail), photograph, public domain. Warren K. Leffler, Demonstrators sit, 1963 (detail), photograph, public domain. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.

The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to core teacher Dr. Barbara Holmes as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. Her photos are featured here together with historical images in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Humanity is One although we are as diverse as flowers in a field. There is power in many different individuals coming together for one purpose—the March on Washington reminds us that together we have the capacity to be a transformative body and force for change.

Story from Our Community:

Here I sit, in the highest foothills of the Rockies. I’ve eaten my breakfast, read my devotions, and it’s time for my 15 minutes of meditation. It’s so hard to keep my eyes closed while God is before me in every bird and blade of grass. I see God in every living thing until I go up the hill where I’m spraying away thistle. I’ve always had trouble with the challenge of appreciating ‘oneness’ when I come to something, someone, or some idea I don’t like.
—Joyce 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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