Participating in the Eternal Embrace

Jesus: Human and Divine

Participating in the Eternal Embrace
Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Yes, Christians formally believed that Jesus was both human and divine at the same time “somehow.” However, with our largely dualistic thinking we humans were only human, and Jesus, for all practical purposes, was only divine. We missed the major point—which was to put the two together in him and then dare to discover the same in ourselves! We made our inclusive Savior, whom we could imitate and participate with, into a Redeemer whom we were told to worship as an exclusionary “Savior.” It is so strange that Jesus, who was always inclusive and compassionate in his lifetime, seemed to create a religion that had an entirely different philosophy. How could that happen?

We were not assured that we could follow him as “partners in his great triumphal procession” (2 Corinthians 2:14). Instead we were told to be grateful spectators of what he did, and we often missed the redemptive transformation that was offered to us: “In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). The Eastern Church called this wonderful gift theosis or divinization, and it is their greatest contribution to Christianity. But even they have not drawn out its very real implications for individuals, much less for society, the poor, or for justice.

Let me repeat, it is formally incorrect to say, “Jesus is God,” as most Christians glibly do. Jesus is the union of “very God” with “very man.” For Christians, the Trinity is God, and Jesus came forth to take us back with him into this eternal embrace, which is where we first came from (John 14:3), so that “the outside of God” is fully taken inside. This is exactly what it means to have an eternal soul and is quite a different description of salvation—and, dare I say, the whole point! It has little to do with our supposed perfection and everything to do with God’s perfection.

This dynamic unity is what makes Jesus the Exemplar, the “pledge” and “guarantee,” the “Pioneer and Perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Now there is much less need to “prove” that Jesus is God (which of itself asks nothing of us). Our deep need is to experience the same unitive mystery in ourselves and in all of creation—“through him, with him, and in him” as we say in the Great Amen of the Eucharist! The good news is that we also are part of the eternal divine dance, but now as the ongoing Body of Christ extended in space and time.

Gateway to Silence:
Jesus came to show God’s Love.

Adapted from Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi, pp. 220-221 

Image credit: Christ surrounded by angels and saints (detail). Mosaic of a Ravennate italian-byzantine workshop, completed within 526 AD by the so-called “Master of Sant’Apollinare,” Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy.