Included from the Beginning — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Included from the Beginning

Unveiling the Universal Christ

Included from the Beginning
Monday, August 23, 2021

Our Living School faculty member, the Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes, understands the Universal Christ as a grand revelation of love at the foundation of the Universe. She says:

There is so much to be gained if we allow the life space to unveil its mysteries that are often hidden in plain view. The Universal Christ is such an unveiling. . . .

[Love is] the greatest mystery of all. Not love as a warm and fuzzy feeling, but love as the animating force that holds us together. If we can believe that we are loved just as we are and that everything else is equally loved, we unveil a cosmic reality that is life-giving and a Christ-like reality that affirms the goodness of all creation. . . .

I encounter the Universal Christ from the cultural viewpoint of my embodiment as an African American woman, and I want to briefly share what that means to me, although categories of race, ethnicity, origin, or tribe have very little meaning in a cosmos based on original goodness and universally shared dignity. I’ve spent a lifetime working with like-minded people helping to unclog racism, sexism, gender, sexual identity bias. We struggle with the -isms so that justice might finally flow like waters. Our intentions are always good, but often our efforts include the subliminal presumption that if dominant culture would just include others and their established systems, all would be well.

The Universal Christ happily displaces that notion. For if inclusion is to be meaningful, it must be based on the idea that everyone and everything is included from the beginning, not included in socially constructed hierarchies with allegiance to one political system or another, but included in a web of life, set forth from the foundations of the earth. [1] [Italics are Richard’s.]

CAC Board Member Alexie Torres-Fleming also ponders how the mystery of the Universal Christ might affect our work for justice. Alexie asks:

What are the implications of the Universal Christ for those at the margins of our society: the poor, the suffering, those that are othered and oppressed in our world? In [The Universal Christ] Richard says, “God loves things by becoming them.” So when I couple this with my understanding of the Incarnation, how this great Mystery of the universe desired to be completely known; and that God is not just, as Father Richard said, present in us, but also as us, what I see is a radical level of belonging and a recognition of the absolute holiness of the asylum seekers and refugees at our borders, the Black young man in America, the transgender person . . . the gay person . . . the incarcerated person, the Muslim person, the Black and brown woman.

What I understand is that we are loved, we belong, and that we are not a mistake or a problem to be solved or a public policy to be fixed, but a holy part of the Divine Mystery that is the Universal Christ. [2]

[1] “Rev. Dr. Barbara A. Holmes on The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr” (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), faculty presentation, April 10, 2020, YouTube video.

[2] “Alexie Torres-Fleming on The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr” (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), presentation, April 13, 2020, YouTube video.

Story from Our Community:
I was introduced to Richard Rohr while struggling with the scandals and hypocrisy surfacing in the Catholic Church. Reading The Universal Christ allowed me to let go of operating more out of fear than love. I have come to appreciate that I can embrace my Catholic upbringing and see it is not the only path—there are so many ways to see, know and experience God. As such I find my days filled with ordinary miracles. Thank you Richard and CAC staff. —Christine A.

Image credit: Charles O’Rear, Grasses After Spring Rain (detail), 1973, photograph, Nebraska, National Archives.
Image inspiration: Each blade of dew-graced grass is part of a larger braided design, just as each person is part of a larger whole. The extraordinary glistens in the most ordinary.
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