Who Is Christ?

The Universal Christ

Who Is Christ
Sunday, December 2, 2018
First Sunday of Advent

What if we’ve missed the point of who Christ is, what Christ is, and where Christ is? I believe that a Christian is simply one who has learned to see Christ everywhere. Understanding the Universal or Cosmic Christ can change the way we relate to creation, to other religions, to other people, to ourselves, and to God. Knowing and experiencing this Christ can bring about a major shift in consciousness. Like Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9), we won’t be the same after encountering the Risen Christ.

The Universal Christ is present in both Scripture and Tradition, and the concept has been understood by many mystics, though not as a focus of mainline Christianity. (See John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:15-20, Ephesians 1:9-12 if you think this is some new idea.) We just didn’t have the eyes to see it.

The Universal Christ is Divine Presence pervading all of creation since the very beginning. My father Francis of Assisi (1181–1226) intuited this presence and lived his life in awareness of it. Later, John Duns Scotus (1266–1308) put this intuition into philosophical form. For Duns Scotus, the Christ Mystery was the blueprint of reality from the very start (John 1:1). Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) brought this insight into our modern world.

God’s first “idea” was to become manifest—to pour out divine, infinite love into finite, visible forms. The “Big Bang” is now our scientific name for that first idea; and “Christ” is our Christian theological name. Both are about love and beauty exploding outward in all directions. Creation is indeed the Body of God!

In Jesus, this eternal omnipresence had a precise, concrete, and personal referent. God’s presence became more obvious and believable in the world. The formless took on form in someone we could “hear, see, and touch” (1 John 1:1), making God easier to love.

But it seems we so fell in love with this personal interface in Jesus that we forgot about the eternal Christ, the Body of God, which is all of creation, which is really the “First Bible.” Jesus and Christ are not exactly the same. In the early Christian era, only a few Eastern Fathers (such as Origen of Alexandria and Maximus the Confessor) noticed that the Christ was clearly historically older, larger, and different than Jesus himself. They mystically saw that Jesus is the union of human and divine in space and time; Christ is the eternal union of matter and Spirit from the beginning of time.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, we’re believing in something much bigger than the historical incarnation that we call Jesus. Jesus is the visible map. The entire sweep of the meaning of the Anointed One, the Christ, includes us and includes all of creation since the beginning of time (see Romans 1:20). This Advent, let us wait in anticipation for the eternally coming Christ.

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Cosmic Christ, discs 1 and 2 (CAC: 2009), CD, MP3 download; and

Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 185, 210, 222.

Image credit: Body and Blood (detail), Janet McKenzie, janetmckenzie.com.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Jesus is the union of human and divine in space and time; Christ is the eternal union of matter and Spirit from the beginning of time. —Richard Rohr

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