Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Fitted" Together into Christ: The Spiritual Significance and Practical Relevance of Being Members of Christ's Body

Today's Feast day of the Apostles, Simon and Jude, begins with an intriguing reading from the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians. In it he describes the Christians in Ephesus as "built" into Christ like stones in a building, with the Apostles as the foundation and Christ as the capstone (the all important "cornerstone"). In the letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes Christians as "Christ's Body": knit together as a "seamless" unity-in-diversity. "Unity" pertains to a singular focus on Christ and promoting the values of the Kingdom of God; "diversity" refers to the uniqueness of the members and the gifts they bring. What makes for a "seamless" functioning of such a body is the unity of mind and heart toward a common goal: bearing the reality of Christ crucified and risen for the life of the world. The spiritual significance of Paul's referring to Christians as "built into Christ" and "members of his Body" is that it points to the very heart of God.

The Christian tradition has used three greek words throughout the centuries that are representative of how God's heart "beats" for the sake of the other: kenosis, perichoresis, and theosis. Kenosis refers to the dynamic of "outreach" or "pouring" one's self out for the sake of the other. The "first" outpouring of God is through the expression of his Word/Son, which God has spoken from all eternity (meaning that there was never a "moment" when the Word or Son didn't exist in God's heart). Our God is a God who has always "communicated" and is imminently relational! So potent is God's Word that this communication takes the form of an "Other." The "Other", God's "Word" and "Son", is so united with the One who speaks that the Word/Son naturally reciprocates and returns the self-same love that was given. This dynamic of complete gift of God's self to the Other and the reciprocal gift of the Other to God becomes a total communion or "dance" of mind and heart, the meaning of the greek word perichoresis (complete mutual penetration and indwelling). But this relationship doesn't end in a "dynamic-duo", it gets even better and more beautiful!! The "dynamic-duo" of Father and Word/Son is a bond or "dance" of mind and heart that is so magnificent and graceful that the bond or "dance" is itself constituted a person, the Holy Spirit. It is the seamless, beautiful, magnificent dance between these three "partners" that makes for "divinity" or "theosis" (meaning the process of being or becoming like the divine).

When God became human in the person of Jesus Christ, he came not merely to free from sin but to free us for the dance of kenosis, perichoresis, and theosis! The spiritual significance of Paul's use of the metaphors of being built into Christ as a building or a body point to the call of God that we reach out to the other through the gift of our self, become "one" in mind and heart with the other by working to realize God's aim that "all be one", and so become "divinized" or like God's very self! The practical relevance of becoming one in Christ through the Holy Spirit is namely that in the very near future (if not already!) there simply will be no other way of existing. By this I mean, the problems that we face in our world have become so complex and so gargantuan that they must be addressed through unity of purpose and solidarity of action. Take for example the reality of climate change (I say "reality" rather than "threat" because we are already in the midst of it). This threat is of such magnitude and complexity that it will require a unity of purpose and solidarity of action on the part of the entire global community if we are to stave off the worst scenarios. There are many other such problems that our world faces as well. Our reason to hope? Today's readings indicate that our hope rests squarely on a God who will never cease to pour out his Word and Spirit of love so that we may be ultimately bonded as one humanity that strives to realize nothing less than a new creation, where God will be "all in all." Pat, TOR