The Universe Is the Body of God

This Is My Body

The Universe Is the Body of God
Thursday, March 7, 2019

The bread and the wine together are stand-ins for the very elements of the universe, which also enjoy and communicate the incarnate presence. Authentically Eucharistic Christians should have been the first to recognize the corporate, universal, and physical nature of the “Christification” of matter. Unfortunately, too often the bread and wine are largely understood as an exclusive presence, when in fact their full function is to communicate a truly inclusive—and always shocking—presence. A true believer is eating what he or she is afraid to see and afraid to accept: The whole universe is the body of God, both in its essence and in its suffering.

Theologian Sallie McFague (b. 1933) presents an excellent model of the universe as the body of God. She writes:

We have suggested that God as the embodied spirit of the universe is a personal/organic model that is compatible with interpretations of both Christian faith and contemporary science, although not demanded by either. It is a way of speaking of God’s relation to all matter, all creation, that “makes sense” in terms of an incarnational understanding of Christianity and an organic interpretation of postmodern science. It helps us to be whole people within our faith and within our contemporary world. Moreover, the model does not reduce God to the world nor relegate God to another world; on the contrary, it radicalizes both divine immanence (God is the breath of each and every creature) and divine transcendence (God is the energy empowering the entire universe). Finally, it underscores our bodiliness, our concrete physical existence and experience that we share with all other creatures: it is a model on the side of the well-being of the planet, for it raises the issue of ethical regard toward all bodies as all are interrelated and interdependent. . . .

Whatever happens, says our model, happens to God also and not just to us. The body of God, shaped by the Christic paradigm, is also the cosmic Christ—the loving, compassionate God on the side of those who suffer, especially the vulnerable and excluded. All are included, not only in their liberation and healing, but also in their defeat and despair. Even as the life-giving breath extends to all bodies in the universe, so also does the liberating, healing, and suffering love of God. The resurrected Christ is the cosmic Christ, the Christ freed from the body of Jesus of Nazareth, to be present in and to all bodies. The New Testament appearance stories attest to the continuing empowerment of the Christic paradigm in the world: the liberating, inclusive love of God for all is alive in and through the entire cosmos. We are not alone as we attempt to practice the ministry of inclusion, for the power of God is incarnate throughout the world, erupting now and then where the vulnerable are liberated and healed, as well as where they are not. [1]

References:
[1] Sallie McFague, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology (Fortress Press: 1993), 150, 179.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 134.

Image credit: Eucharistic Bread, painting in the early Christian catacomb of Saint Callixtus, Rome, Italy.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The Eucharist is an encounter of the heart, knowing Presence through our own offered presence. In the Eucharist, we move beyond mere words or rational thought and go to that place where we don’t talk about the Mystery anymore; we begin to chew on it. Jesus did not say, “Think about this” or “Stare at this” or even “Worship this.” Instead he said, “Eat this!” —Richard Rohr

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