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Mystical Holism

All Will Be Well

Mystical Holism
Friday, April 9, 2021

I am convinced that the Gospel offers us a holistic understanding of salvation. If we understand the resurrection as a universal phenomenon, we can see this idea everywhere in Pauline passages, expressed in different ways. Here are some examples: “in that one body he condemned sin” (Romans 8:3); “he experienced death for all humankind” (Hebrews 2:9); he has done suffering and sacrifice “once and for all” (Hebrews 7:27); the embodiment language of Philippians, where Jesus is said to lead us through the “pattern of death” so we can “take our place in the pattern of resurrection” (3:9–12). And of course, this all emerges from Jesus’s major metaphor of the “Reign of God,” a fully collective notion, which many scholars say is just about all that he talks about. Until we start reading the Jesus story through the collective notion that the Christ offers us, I honestly think we miss much of the core message, and read it all in terms of individual salvation, and individual reward and punishment. Society will remain untouched, leaving Christianity little chance of changing the world.

Julian of Norwich was given the gift of seeing in this holistic way. In chapter 9 of the Long Text she writes:

We are all one in love. . . . When I look at myself as an individual, I see that I am nothing. It is only in unity with my fellow spiritual seekers that I am anything at all. It is this foundation of unity that will save humanity.

God is all that is good. God has created all that is made. God loves all that he has created. And so anyone who, in loving God, loves all his fellow creatures [and] loves all that is. All those who are on the spiritual path contain the whole of creation, and the Creator. That is because God is inside us, and inside God is everything. And so whoever loves God loves all that is. [1]

Scholar Mary C. Earle comments on this passage:

Julian sees that each life is part of a glorious whole. Each life, so miniscule in and of itself, is connected to the vast web of life held in being by God.

The oneness of love has clear implications for the ways in which we think about salvation. Julian would be surprised by some of our notions about individual salvation today, such as the question, “Have you been saved?” Following early Christian writers, she understands that it is not a question of individual salvation; we are all saved together. All creatures, and the cosmos itself, originate from one divine source; at our death we all return to that source. In our lives here, moreover, that love indwells all and weaves us together in ways we cannot fathom.

God is within us, at home, patiently and kindly awaiting our recognition. As Maker of all, God is in everything, present in all places and at all times. [2]

References:
[1] The Showings of Julian of Norwich: A New Translation, Mirabai Starr (Hampton Roads: 2013), 23–24. [Italics mine.]

[2] Julian of Norwich: Selections from Revelations of Divine Love—Annotated & Explained, annotation by Mary C. Earle (SkyLight Paths Publishing: 2013), 116.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (Convergent: 2021, 2019), 163–164.

Story from Our Community:
As a queer person, finding love is fraught with danger, uncertainty, and risk. Reading these meditations, though, I realized that I can put my energy into fostering love with God. The idea that I can find this love with God first and foremost is terrifying, as I know it will call on me to let go of what I think I need and want in this world. However, I also believe God will show me deeper riches than I ever could have imagined. I, like Julian, might just encounter divine love if I make myself vulnerable to it. —Jimmy H.

Image credit: Belinda Rain, Nevada — South Lake Tahoe, California (detail), 1972 photograph, public domain, National Archives.
Image inspiration: A butterfly alights on a flower after rain—a hopeful parallel to the delicate, sometimes hesitant, unfolding of the human soul after storms of life.
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