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Dynamic Unity

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Cosmic Christ: Week 2

Dynamic Unity
Sunday, April 2, 2017

Paul tried unceasingly to demonstrate “that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 9:22). This synthesis is the heart of Paul’s conversion experience. Paul did not think he was abandoning his Jewish faith, but rather finding its universal dimension in this “Mystery of Christ,” as he loved to call it. Remember, Paul never knew Jesus in the flesh and hardly ever quotes him directly. Paul introduced his cosmic understanding with his common phrase en Christo; he uses this more than any single phrase in all of his letters. The words “in Christ” seem to be Paul’s code for the gracious participatory experience he so urgently wants to share with the world, and it leads him far beyond exclusionary Judaism or exclusionary Christianity.

Only in our time is a truly dynamic unity between time-bound, personified Jesus and eternal, universal Christ slowly being recognized. Until now, this was an alternative and frankly rare orthodoxy among Christians. With our much larger awareness of the universe and greater honesty about Scripture, this understanding is timely and even necessary if Christianity is to have any social or historical meaning larger than another competing religion.

After the Council of Nicaea (325 AD), Christians said that Jesus was “consubstantial” with God; after the Council of Chalcedon (451), we agreed to a philosophical description about how Jesus’s humanity and divinity could be one. But both “nondualities” remained cold academic theologies (“beliefs”) because we did not draw out the practical and transformative implications for history, evolution, and even ourselves. Many congregations quickly mumble through the Nicene or Apostles’ Creeds week after week, disappointed that there are no warm or human words like “love,” “healing,” or “forgiveness” in the whole text. It is hard to believe in the creed, even if you do formally accept it as true.

“As in him, so also in us, and also in the whole universe” was meant to be our radical conclusion! What most religion treats as separate (matter and Spirit, humanity and divinity) has never been separate from its beginnings: Spirit is forever captured in matter, and matter is the place where Spirit shows itself. It is one sacred world. John Duns Scotus reflected on the Christ Mystery as the first idea in the mind of God, and then Teilhard de Chardin commonly described Christ as “the Omega Point of history.” [1] We were supposed to live safely between this Alpha and Omega. All of history is moving forward with a clear trajectory, with meaning from the beginning and a clear summary goal. Without such coherent and universal meaning, we have paddled desperately, and often angrily, in many confusing directions.

Gateway to Silence:
In Christ, with Christ, through Christ

[1] Teilhard de Chardin, Science and Christ, trans. René Hague (Harper & Row: 1968), 34-35; and Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, trans. Bernard Wall (Harper Perennial: 1976, 23rd ed.), 294.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 213-215.

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