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Center for Action and Contemplation

Giving Birth to God

Friday, April 15, 2016

Participation: Week 2

Giving Birth to God
Friday, April 15, 2016

Many of the early teachers of the Christian Church believed in an ontological, metaphysical, objective union between humanity and God, which alone would allow Jesus to take us “back with him” into the life of the Trinity (John 17:23-24, 14:3, 12:26). This was how many in the Early Church understood and experienced “participation.” It proclaimed our core identity as the beginning point (Ephesians 1:3-12), not external practices of any type. We had thought our form was merely human, but Jesus came to tell us that our actual form is human-divine, just as he is. Jesus was not much interested in proclaiming himself the exclusive or exclusionary Son of God, but he went out of his way to communicate an inclusive sonship and daughterhood to the crowds. We were to imitate him more than worship him, it seems. Paul used words like “adopted” (Galatians 4:5) and “coheirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17) to make the same point. “Adoptionism” was much stronger in the Early Church than the later Lutheran emphasis on individual “justification.”

The awesome and even presumptuous message of divinization is supported by Genesis 1:27 where we are told that we are “created in the image and likeness of God.” Many tomes of theology have been written to clarify this quote. The word “image” describes our objective DNA that marks us as creatures of God from the very beginning. It is the Holy Spirit living within us as a totally gratuitous gift from the moment of our conception. “Likeness” is our personal appropriation and gradual realization of this utterly free gift of the image of God. We all have the same objective gift, but how we subjectively say yes to it is quite different. We already have image; we choose likeness.

We come to appreciate “Full and Final Participation” through Jesus, who clearly believed that God was not so much inviting us into a distant heaven, but inviting us into the Godself as friends and co-participants now. I am not talking about a perfect psychological or moral wholeness in us, which is never the case, and is why many dismiss this doctrine of divinization—or feel incapable of it. I am talking about a divinely implanted “sharing in the divine nature,” which is called the indwelling spirit or the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:14-17). This is the totally positive substratum on which we must and can build and rebuild a civilization of life and love.

As Sr. Ilia Delio says so well, “Christian life is a commitment to love, to give birth to God in one’s own life and to become midwives of divinity in this evolving cosmos. We are to be wholemakers of love in a world of change. Teilhard [de Chardin] saw that creativity and invention would forge the modern path of evolution, but he also saw that science alone cannot fulfill the cosmic longing for completion. God rises up at the heart of cosmic evolution through the power of love, which science and technology can facilitate but not surpass. The future of the earth, therefore, lies not in science and technology, but in the spiritual power of world religions and the power of love. We are born out of love, we exist in love and we are destined for eternal love. . . . [I]t is time to reinvent ourselves in love.” [1]

Gateway to Silence:
Spirit of Love in me, love through me.

[1] Ilia Delio, “Love at the Heart of the Universe,” Oneing, Vol. 1 No. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), 22.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 119-122.

Image Credit: Candles by clarita.
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