Loving both Jesus and Christ

The Cosmic Christ: Week 1

Loving both Jesus and Christ
Friday, March 31, 2017

I believe that Francis of Assisi was unique and ahead of his time for loving and relating to both the historical Jesus and the eternal Christ at the same time, surely without fully realizing what he was doing. Francis himself just “knew” it and lived it intuitively. Most Christians were never encouraged to combine the personal with the universal, or Jesus with Christ; nor were we told that we could honor and love both of them.

Some Eastern Fathers and early mystics—like Maximus the Confessor, Symeon the New Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa—brilliantly taught these ideas, but they remained largely undeveloped in the West after the Great Schism of 1054. This is one example of how the Christ Mystery was portioned out each time the Body of Christ divided (1 Corinthians 1:12-13) or identified with Empire (Matthew 4:8-10), as it did in both Rome and Constantinople.

It is important to place ourselves in the largest possible frame, or we always revert back to a very non-catholic (“unwhole”) place where both the savior and the saved ones end up being far too small, where Jesus of Nazareth has been separated from the Eternal Christ. Here Christianity becomes just another competing world religion and salvation is privatized because the social and historical message has been lost. The full Gospel is so much bigger and more inclusive than that: Jesus is the historical figure and Christ is the cosmic figure—and together they carry both the individual and history forward.

We made Christ into Jesus’ last name instead of realizing it was the description of his universal role in history and potentially in all world religions. I fully believe that there has never been a single soul that was not possessed by the Eternal Christ, even in the ages before the incarnation of Jesus. And I believe both well-studied Scripture and the Great Tradition will lead you to the same conclusion. Christ is eternal; Jesus is born in time. Jesus without Christ invariably becomes a time-bound and culturally-bound religion that excludes much of humanity from Christ’s embrace. On the other end, Christ without Jesus would easily become an abstract metaphysics or a mere ideology without personal engagement. We must believe in Jesus and Christ.

Gateway to Silence:
In the beginning . . . and the end.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 211-213.