From the Beginning of Time

The Universal Christ

From the Beginning of Time
Monday, December 3, 2018

Christ is the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of God’s nature, sustaining the universe by God’s powerful command. —Hebrews 1:3, Jerusalem Bible

Christ is not Jesus’ last name. The word Christ is a title, meaning the Anointed One, which many Christians so consistently applied to Jesus that to us it became like a name. But a study of Scripture, Tradition, and the experience of many mystics reveals a much larger, broader, and deeper meaning to “the Christ.”

The above passage from Hebrews says that Christ “sustains the universe.” The concept of Christ can be used to describe reality in an archetypal, symbolic, and profound way. But it names the shape of the universe before it names the individual who typifies that shape, the one we call Jesus Christ. All of creation first holds God’s anointing (“beloved” status), and then Jesus brings the message home in a personal way over thirteen billion years later!

This is a different way of thinking for so many Christians. The three synoptic Gospels are largely talking about Jesus, the historical figure who healed and taught and lived in human history. John’s Gospel presents the trans-historical “Christ” (which is why so very few stories in John coincide with Matthew, Mark, and Luke). This Christ frequently makes universal “I AM” statements and claims (see John 6:35, 48; 8:12, 24, 58; 10:9, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1), mirroring the unspeakable name of the Holy One (Exodus 3:14).

Many people don’t realize that the Apostle Paul never met the historical Jesus and hardly ever quotes Jesus directly. In almost all of Paul’s preaching and writing, he refers to the Eternal Christ Mystery or the Risen Christ rather than Jesus of Nazareth before his death and resurrection. The Risen Christ is the only Jesus that Paul ever knew! This makes Paul a fitting mediator for the rest of us, since the Omnipresent Risen Christ is the only Jesus we will ever know as well (see 2 Corinthians 5:16-17).

Jesus’ historical transformation (“resurrected flesh”) allows us to more easily experience the Presence that has always been available since the beginning of time, a Presence unlimited by space or time, the promise and “guarantee” of our own transformation (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-58). In Jesus, the Timeless Christ became time bound so we could enjoy the personal divine gaze (see 1 John 1-2).

Whenever the material and the spiritual coincide, there is the Christ. Jesus fully accepted that human-divine identity and walked it into history. Henceforth, the Christ “comes again” whenever we are able to see the spiritual and the material coexisting, in any moment, in any event, and in any person. All matter reveals Spirit, and Spirit needs matter to “show itself”! I believe “the Second Coming of Christ” happens whenever and wherever we allow this to be utterly true for us. This is how God continually breaks into history—even before the first homo sapiens stood in awe and wonder, gazing at the stars.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Cosmic Christ, disc 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009), CD, MP3 download.

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

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