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The Union of Human and Divine

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Cosmic Christ: Week 2

The Union of Human and Divine
Thursday, April 6, 2017

Please do not think me a heretic, but it is formally and theologically incorrect to say “Jesus is God,” as most Christians glibly do and then need to “prove.” Jesus is instead a third something—the perfect union of “very God” with “very man.” For the truly orthodox Christian, the Trinity must be “God,” and Jesus can only be understood inside that Eternal Embrace. From within this loving relationship, the Christ came forth to draw us back (through the enfleshed Jesus) to where we all originally came from (Genesis 1:26, John 14:3). This is quite a different description of salvation—and, dare I say, the whole point! I wonder if “reincorporation” might not be a better word than salvation.

We have much less need to “prove” that Jesus is God (which of itself asks nothing transformative of us). Our deep need is to experience the same unitive mystery in ourselves and in everything else—“through him, with him, and in him,” as we say in the Great Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer. The good news is that we also are part of the eternal divine embrace, now as the ongoing Body of Christ extended in space and time. We are the second coming of Christ!

There were clear statements in the New Testament about a universal meaning to Christ (Colossians 1, Ephesians 1, John 1, 1 John 1, and Hebrews 1:1–4). The schools of Paul and John were initially overwhelmed by this message. In the early Christian era, only some Eastern Fathers (such as Origen of Alexandria, Irenaeus, and Maximus the Confessor) noticed that the Christ was clearly something older, larger, and different than Jesus himself. They mystically saw that Jesus is the union of human and divine in space and time; whereas the Christ is the eternal union of matter and Spirit from the beginning of time. In later centuries, the church lost this mystical understanding in favor of fast-food, dualistic Christianity that was easier for the average parish believer to comprehend. We pushed Jesus, and we lost Christ.

The early Franciscan School surely fell in love with the person of Jesus, but through Duns Scotus and Bonaventure it also saw him as a corporate personality (a type, archetype, or model) representing and directing the Whole. We know this by the way that early Franciscans saw the Christ Mystery mirrored in every aspect of creation, from elements, to weather, planets, animals, attitudes, non-Christians, art, and even to enemies. For example, Roger Bacon (1214–1292), a Franciscan friar at Oxford, is called “the father of experimental science.” The natural world was no longer just “natural” for those influenced by the intuitive genius of Francis of Assisi. Poor Bacon was seen as not very religious, and his laboratory was relegated to the very outside walls of Oxford, but Bacon had the courage and passion to love and serve the Eternal Christ and not just the historical Jesus. There was no gap between sacred and secular in his view. It was one sacred and all “supernatural” world.

Gateway to Silence:
In Christ, with Christ, through Christ

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 220-222.

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