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The Cross

Everything Belongs: Week 2

The Cross
Friday, December 9, 2016

The cross is a perfect metaphor for what we mean by “Everything Belongs.” The rational, calculating mind can never fully understand the mystery of the cross. These insights can only be discovered through contemplative seeing:

God is to be found in all things, even and most especially in the painful, tragic, and sinful things, exactly where we do not want to look for God. The crucifixion of the God-Man is at the same moment the worst thing in human history and the best thing in human history.

Human existence is neither perfectly consistent (as rational and control-needy people usually demand it be), nor is it incoherent chaos (what cynics, agnostics, and unaware people expect it to be). Instead, life has a cruciform pattern. All of life is a “coincidence of opposites” (St. Bonaventure), a collision of cross-purposes; we are all filled with contradictions needing to be reconciled. This is the precise burden and tug of all human existence.

The price that we pay for holding together these opposites is invariably some form of “crucifixion.” Jesus himself was archetypally hung between a good thief and a bad thief, between heaven and earth, holding together both his humanity and his divinity, a male body with a feminine soul. He was a Jewish believer who forgave and loved everyone else. He “reconciled all things in himself” (Ephesians 2:14-18). Jesus really is an icon of what Carl Jung called the whole-making instinct.

The demand for the perfect is the enemy of the possible good. Be peace and do justice, but don’t expect perfection in yourself or the world. Perfectionism contributes to intolerance and judgmentalism and makes ordinary love largely impossible. Jesus was an absolute realist, patient with the ordinary, the broken, the weak, and those who failed. Following him is not a “salvation scheme” or a means of creating some ideal social order as much as it is a vocation to share the fate of God for the life of the World, and to love the way that God loves—which we cannot do by ourselves.

The doctrine, folly, and image of the cross is the great clarifier and truth-speaker for all of human history. We can rightly speak of being “saved” by it. Jesus crucified and resurrected is the whole pattern revealed, named, effected, and promised for human history. Jesus did not come to found a separate or new religion as much as he came to present a universal message of vulnerability and foundational unity that is necessary for all religions, the human soul, and history itself to survive. Thus Christians can rightly call Jesus “the Savior of the World” (John 4:42), but no longer in the competitive and imperialistic way that they have usually presented him. By very definition, vulnerability and unity do not compete or dominate. The cosmic Christ is no threat to anything but separateness, illusion, domination, and the imperial ego. In that sense, Jesus, the Christ, is the ultimate threat, but first of all to Christians themselves.

Gateway to Silence:
All things work together for good. —Romans 8:28

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2003), 177-182; and
How Do We Get Everything to Belong? disc 1 (CAC: 2004), CD, MP3 download.

Image credit: Photograph by Domenico Salvagnin, Springtime II (detail), taken near Padua, Italy,
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