Participation: Week 1
Dying and Living in Christ
Thursday, April 7, 2016
Paul uses the phrase en Christo, in Christ, around seventy times. He’s trying to describe this larger life in which we are participating. He speaks of belonging to Christ, of being possessed by Christ, captured by Christ, apprehended by Christ. He says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Paul speaks of being clothed by Christ. He tells us to put on Christ. He says he suffers with Christ, he’s crucified with Christ, he dies with Christ, he’s buried with Christ. He’s raised up with Christ, he lives with Christ, and Paul says he’s making up in his body the afflictions which still must be undergone by Christ.
Paul writes, “All belongs to you, you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” (see 1 Corinthians 3:21-23). He’s grasping at mystical language for describing how we participate in this reality that is larger than our individual lives. Being “in Christ” will eventually lead us to join in the universal pattern of death and resurrection that Christ went through. This is the universal initiation experience, the transformative experience that all human beings go through whereby we come to know what’s real. We must go into the death of the small self in order to discover the Big Self, the True Self. At the mystical level, all the world religions say this.
In contemplation we’re consciously choosing to let go of our identification with our mind and our identification with our life situation or our false self so that we can fall into the One True Life, which is bigger than each of us, which is moving into a different body, a different state, a different consciousness that Christians call Christ consciousness. For Paul it is his participation in Christ which gives him the courage to walk through each state: passion, death, and resurrection—all of which are brought to focus in the life of Jesus. Most people were told to love Jesus without being invited to love Christ. “The Christ” is the Big Picture of God’s enfleshment in all of creation since the beginning of time (Colossians 1:15-20); Jesus is the distilled, personal enfleshment that brings this primal “anointing” of the material world to one concrete loving and loveable moment.
Gateway to Silence:
Remain in my love. —John 15:9
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Great Themes of Paul: Life as Participation (Franciscan Media: 2002), disc 7 (CD).