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Center for Action and Contemplation

Finding God Everywhere

Friday, March 8, 2019

This Is My Body

Finding God Everywhere
Friday, March 8, 2019

Yesterday I shared theologian Sallie McFague’s model of the universe as the body of God. Let’s continue exploring this concept and its implications. McFague writes:

We know God—we have some intimation of the invisible face of God—through divine incarnation in nature [what Franciscans call the first Bible] and in the paradigmatic [i.e., model] Jesus of Nazareth, in the universe as God’s body and in the cosmic [universal] Christ.

. . . Each of these forms of the incarnation [reveals] divine immanence and transcendence [i.e., that God is both within all things and beyond all things]. . . . When we contemplate the wonders of evolutionary history in both its smallest and greatest dimensions, through a microscope or a telescope, what we grasp is a concrete experience of awesomeness that comes as close as may be humanly possible to experiencing immanent transcendence or transcendent immanence. Suddenly to see some aspect of creation naked, as it were, in its elemental beauty, its thereness and suchness, stripped of all conventional names and categories and uses, is an experience of transcendence and immanence inextricably joined. This possibility is before us in each and every piece and part of creation: it is the wonder at the world that young children have and that poets and artists retain. It is to experience the ordinary as extraordinary. This is experiencing the world as God’s body, the ordinariness of all bodies contained within and empowered by the divine.

Our model has also suggested another way that divine transcendence and immanence join: in the body of Christ, the cosmic Christ. As Dorothee Soelle comments on the parable of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:29-37]: “God is, as it were, lying in the streets, if only we could learn to see.” [1] The radicalization [“deeply planted” like a root; radix is Latin for root; the term did not first connote fanatical or extreme as it often does today] of transcendence in the Christic paradigm is the incognito appearance of Christ wherever we see human compassion for the outcast and the vulnerable. Radical love for the “unworthy”—the foreigner lying injured on the road (or a destroyed rainforest, the few remaining individuals in a species, or a hungry child)—is also an image that melds divine transcendence and immanence. God is present when and where the oppressed are liberated, the sick are healed, the outcast are invited in. Just as every flower or insect is the body of God if we can learn to see it as such. There is nothing novel about this suggestion; in fact, it is biblical to the core, for as we read in Matthew, “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (25:40). Our only addition is to suggest that the least of the family members must include, in our time, the other creatures of the earth and even the planet itself.

[1] Dorothee Soelle, Thinking About God: An Introduction to Theology (Trinity Press, International: 1990), 192.

Sallie McFague, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology (Fortress Press: 1993), 194-195.

Image credit: Eucharistic Bread, painting in the early Christian catacomb of Saint Callixtus, Rome, Italy.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The Eucharist is an encounter of the heart, knowing Presence through our own offered presence. In the Eucharist, we move beyond mere words or rational thought and go to that place where we don’t talk about the Mystery anymore; we begin to chew on it. Jesus did not say, “Think about this” or “Stare at this” or even “Worship this.” Instead he said, “Eat this!” —Richard Rohr
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