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Unveiling the Great (Christ) Mystery

Unveiling the Universal Christ

Unveiling the Great (Christ) Mystery
Sunday, August 22, 2021

This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. Colossians 1:26–27, The Message

The Christ Mystery that Paul speaks of in Colossians is the indwelling of the Divine Presence in everyone and everything. Paul was a mystic of the first magnitude, which explains why he was able to see Christ everywhere. When I use the word “mystic” I am referring to experiential knowing instead of just textbook or dogmatic knowing. The difference tends to be that the mystic sees things in their wholeness, their connection, their universal and divine frame, instead of just their particularity. Mystics get the whole gestalt in one picture, as it were, and thus they go beyond our more sequential and separated way of seeing the moment. In this they tend to be closer to poets and artists than to linear thinkers.

Obviously, there is a place for both perspectives, but since the Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there has been less and less appreciation of such seeing in wholes. We limited ourselves to rational knowing and the scientific method. So in our time, this deep mode of seeing must be approached as something of a reclamation project. After the Western Church separated from the East in the Great Schism of 1054, we gradually lost the profound understanding of how God has been liberating and loving all that is.

Mystics throughout the ages, however, knew Christ as another name for everything—in its fullness. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335­–c. 394) wrote “For who, when [taking] a survey of the universe, is so simple as not to believe that there is Deity in everything, penetrating it, embracing it, and seated in it?” [1] Rhineland mystic Mechthild of Magdeburg (c. 1212–c. 1282) proclaimed, “The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw and knew I saw all things in God and God in all things.” [2] And twentieth-century Trappist mystic Thomas Merton (1915–1968) wrote, “Christ prayed that all people might become One as He is One with His Father, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit. Therefore when you and I become what we are really meant to be, we will discover not only that we love another perfectly but that we are both living in Christ and Christ in us, and we are all One Christ.” [3]

This week’s meditations will highlight various contemporary and ancient voices who have understood the “rich and glorious secret” of Christ inside and out, everywhere, and in all things.

References:
[1] Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism, 25, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 5, Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, etc. (Charles Scribner’s Sons: 1917), 495.

[2] Mechthild of Magdeburg, The Flowing Light of God, 2.19, in Meditations with Mechtild of Magdeburg, versions by Sue Woodruff (Bear & Co.: 1982), 46.

[3] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New Directions: 1972), 150–151. Note: Minor edits made to incorporate gender-inclusive language.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 1, 4.

Story from Our Community:
I was introduced to Richard Rohr while struggling with the scandals and hypocrisy surfacing in the Catholic Church. Reading The Universal Christ allowed me to let go of operating more out of fear than love. I have come to appreciate that I can embrace my Catholic upbringing and see it is not the only path—there are so many ways to see, know and experience God. As such I find my days filled with ordinary miracles. Thank you Richard and CAC staff. —Christine A.

Image credit: Charles O’Rear, Grasses After Spring Rain (detail), 1973, photograph, Nebraska, National Archives.
Image inspiration: Each blade of dew-graced grass is part of a larger braided design, just as each person is part of a larger whole. The extraordinary glistens in the most ordinary.
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