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Center for Action and Contemplation

One United Dynamic Nature

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Jesus: Human and Divine

One United Dynamic Nature
Sunday, January 27, 2019

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. —1 Corinthians 3:11

We’ve begun this year’s Daily Meditations focusing on Jesus. While the Christian faith is living and evolving, its foundation is still Jesus, the Christ. Such a firm clear centerpiece will allow us—indeed demand of us—that we move outward from there. But the pieces of the Rubik’s Cube that we must forever untangle anew are all firmly in place. The forever union of matter and spirit, of human and divine, of God with Creation, is revealed in human history as Jesus, and in the cosmos as Christ.

This pretty much makes any attempts at exclusion virtually impossible. Such wholeness at the heart of the universe is known by other names in various religions and fields of study, as we’ll see later this year.

Understanding how Jesus was fully human and fully divine at the same time requires nondual consciousness. That’s probably why it has often been best taught by mystics who spend much time in deep prayer. For example, let’s look closely at the Alexandrian Mystics (312–454 CE)—hermits, monks, and nuns living in the Egyptian desert. Some of these mystics are known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers. In general, the early Alexandrian school represents the more mystical and nondual tradition of Christianity, but it never dominated in the common imperial versions of the Gospel (either Roman or Byzantine), so it was completely lost by the time of the Protestant Reformation.

This period of early Christianity is largely unknown and of little interest to most Western Christians today. With the self-sufficiency and arrogance that has often characterized the West, we have proceeded as if the first centuries of the Christian church were unimportant or not a part of the essential Christ Mystery. So, bear with me as I share a bit more historical and theological nuance than I usually do.

Christian theologian and friend Amos Smith offers some very helpful context to help us understand these early Christians:

The Alexandrian Mystics were predominantly Miaphysite (one united dynamic nature in both Jesus and in us). Jesus is the Great Includer and we are the endlessly included. They were also hesychasts [practicing a form of contemplative prayer that focused on clearing the mind of all thoughts and sensory distractions]. These monks and monk-bishops predate the split between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy (1054). They also predate the Oriental Orthodox split that eventually followed the Council of Chalcedon (451), so they rightfully belong to the early Church universal. . .

Miaphysite is the non-dual awareness of Christ, who as Cyril of Alexandria put it, is “at once God and human.” If Jesus is at once God and human, that means as believers we cannot refer to Jesus as God without qualifying that: “God in human form.” We also cannot refer to Jesus as human only without qualifying that: “the human incarnation of God.” The legacy of Miaphysite theology is only well preserved today in the Oriental Orthodox Church (not to be confused with Eastern Orthodox). Miaphysite is the crown jewel of the Alexandrian Mystics. It is the center piece that holds the various strands of Mystic Christianity together. [1]

I hope I do Amos Smith’s scholarship justice in my brief summaries the next few days as we continue to explore how the incarnation is essential to our faith and how we, too, participate in this mystery of creation embodying the divine.

[1] Amos Smith, Healing the Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots (Resource Publications: 2013), 242, 253, 258-259.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Desert Christianity and the Eastern Fathers of the Church,” the Mendicant, vol. 5, no. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2015), 1.

Image credit: Salvator Mundi (detail), Titian, circa 1570, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Jesus is the archetype of Everything. . . . In Byzantine art and many later icons, Jesus is shown holding up two fingers, indicating, “I am fully human, and I am fully divine at the same time.” —Richard Rohr
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