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Center for Action and Contemplation

Jesus in the Trinity

Monday, January 10, 2022

Father Richard points out how we misunderstand Jesus and his teachings when we think of him apart from the Trinity.

When we try to understand Jesus outside the dynamism of the Trinity, we do not do him or ourselves any favors. Jesus never operated as an independent “I” but only as a “thou” in relationship to his Father and the Holy Spirit. He says this in a hundred different ways—the “Father” and the “Holy Spirit” are a relationship to Jesus. God is love, which means relationship itself (1 John 4:7–8).

Christianity lost its natural movement and momentum—flowing out from and returning to that relationship—when it pulled Jesus out of the Trinity. It killed that exciting inner experience and marginalized the mystics who really should be center stage. Jesus is the model and metaphor for all of creation being drawn into this infinite flow of love. Thus he says, “Follow me!” and “I shall return to take you with me, so that where I am, you may be also” (John 14:3). The concrete, historical body of Jesus represents the universal Body of Christ that “God has loved before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). He is the stand-in for all of us. The Jesus story, in other words, is the universe story. He never doubts his union with God, and he hands on union with God to us through this fully participatory universe.

Many of the Fathers of the 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 real “participation” was for many in the early church. It changed people and offered them their deepest identity and form (“trans-formation”). We had thought our form was merely human, but Jesus came to show us that our actual form is human-divine, just as he is. He was not much interested in proclaiming himself the exclusive son of God. Instead, he went out of his way to communicate an inclusive sonship and daughterhood to the crowds. Paul uses words like “adopted” (Galatians 4:5) and “co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17) to make the same point.

“Full and final participation” was learned from Jesus, who clearly believed that God does not so much promise us a distant heaven but invites us into the Godself as friends and co-participants. Remember, I am not talking about a psychological or moral wholeness in human persons, which is never the case, and why most people dismiss this doctrine—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 (Romans 8:16–17). This is the foundation on which we must and can build and rebuild a civilization of life and love. Our objective ground is good and totally given!

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2013), 98, 119—120.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Brian McLaren, Untitled 4-6 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.

The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to Brian McLaren as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. His photos are featured here in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image Inspiration: Trinity is the mystery of deep, abiding relationship. Each of the organisms in these photos reflect different forms but share the same source, providing benefits to the others. They are intricately related in their shared ecosystem.

Story from Our Community:

Since I read “The Universal Christ,” I have put into practice scripture reading from the point of view of “original goodness.” I now talk to my adult children about staying connected, instead of holding an inquisition [if] they miss mass. Instead of curating music for parish liturgies based on trends, I choose based on “original goodness” —compassion, mercy, kindness, forgiveness. When my peace is disturbed by things I hear or see, I search my soul to see how I can remain connected and there is always resolution.
—Elana 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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In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.