The Universal Christ
Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Francis of Assisi understood that the entire circle of life had a Great Lover at the center. For Franciscan John Duns Scotus, before God is the divine Logos (rational pattern), God is Infinite and Absolute Friendship (Trinity), that is, Eternal Outpouring (Love). Love is the very nature of Being itself. God is not a being who occasionally decides to love. God is “the one in whom we live, move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). God is Being Itself, and by reason of the Trinity, Being operates as Infinite Love, emptying and out-pouring like an eternal water wheel—in one positive direction.
For us, the Trinity must be the absolute beginning point—and ending point, too. Outpouring Love is the inherent shape of the universe, and only when we love do we fully and truthfully exist in this universe and move toward our full purpose. The Christ who comes forth from the Trinity is both the Alpha and the Omega point of all history (Revelation 1:8, 21:6, 22:13). This metaphysical and cosmic statement gives the whole universe meaning, direction, and goal! God’s purposes are social, cosmic, and universal, not just to hold together a small group of so-called insiders.
Love is the very meaning of Creation. Many of the Fathers and Mothers of the Church, along with saints and mystics throughout history, said that God created because, frankly, God needed something to love and something that could love God freely in return. Parents’ fondest desire, perhaps unconsciously, is to love their little ones in every way. Hidden behind that is the hope that someday their children will love them back. The very way we love our children becomes their empowerment to love us.
Franciscan Philippe Yates puts this in cosmic terms:
At the heart of Scotus’ theology was the doctrine of the primacy of Christ. God is absolutely free and therefore if he [sic] creates it is because he wants to create. He wants to create in order to reveal and communicate his goodness and love to another. Because God loves, he wills that his creation should also be infused by love.
St. Paul tells us that Christ was the “first-born of all creation” [see Colossians 1:15], and Scotus’ theology makes sense of this affirmation. The incarnation in Scotus’ theology is the whole purpose of creation. Christ is the masterpiece of love in the midst of a creation designed for love, not a divine plumber come to fix the mess of original sin. 
In other words, many of us Christians settled for Plan B, or Jesus as a mere problem solver after we messed up. The Good News is that the Christ is Plan A from the very beginning, and Jesus came along much later to make it all visible, lovable, and attractive. Salvation is a historical, social, and universal notion, which is made very clear already by the Jewish prophets. But when we make Jesus very small, then the good news of salvation becomes very small too.
 Philippe Yates, “The Theology of John Duns Scotus.”
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 182; and
Image credit: Body and Blood (detail), Janet McKenzie, janetmckenzie.com.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Jesus is the union of human and divine in space and time; Christ is the eternal union of matter and Spirit from the beginning of time. —Richard Rohr