Richard Rohr: Creation as the Body of God
The following was written by Richard Rohr and cross-posted from The
Huffington Post, March 4, 2011
Creation is the primary and most perfect revelation of the Divine.” — Thomas
“God remains in immediate sustaining attentiveness to everything that exists, precisely in its ‘thisness.’” — John Duns Scotus
The Incarnation of God did not happen in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. That is just when
we started taking it seriously. The incarnation actually happened 13.7 billion years ago
with a moment that we now call “The Big Bang.” That is when God actually decided
to materialize and to self expose.
Two thousand years ago was the human incarnation of God in Jesus, but before that
there was the first and original incarnation through light, water, land, sun, moon,
stars, plants, trees, fruit, birds, serpents, cattle, fish, and “every kind of wild beast”
according to our own creation story (Genesis 1:3-25). This was the “Cosmic Christ”
through which God has “let us know the mystery of his purpose, the hidden plan he
so kindly made from the beginning in Christ” (Ephesians 1:9). Christ is not Jesus’ last
name, but the title for his life’s purpose. Jesus is the very concrete truth revealing and
standing in for the universal truth. As Colossians puts it, “He is the image of the
invisible God, the first born of all creation” (1:15), he is the one glorious part that
names and reveals the even more glorious whole. “The fullness is founded in him …
everything in heaven and everything on Earth” (Colossians1:19-20). Christ, for John
Duns Scotus (1265/66-1308) was the very first idea in the mind of God, and God has
never stopped thinking, dreaming, and creating the Christ. “The immense diversity and
pluriformity of this creation more perfectly represents God than any one creature
alone or by itself,” adds Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) in his Summa Theologica (47:1).
For most of us, this is a significant shaking of our foundational image of the universe
and of our religion.
Yet if any group should have come to this quite simply and naturally, it should have been the three groups of believers that call themselves “monotheists”. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe that the world was created by one God. It would seem to follow therefore that everything, everything without exception, would bear the clear imprint and likeness of the one Creator. Doesn’t that seem to follow? How could we miss that? After all, we believed that One God created everything out of nothing.
We must realize what a muddle we have got ourselves into by not taking incarnation
and the body of God seriously. It is our only Christian trump card, and we have yet to
actually play it! As Sallie McFague states so powerfully, “salvation is the direction of
all of creation, and creation is the very place of salvation.” (The Body of God, p. 287) All
is God’s place, which is our place, which is the only place and every place.
In the 4th century St. Augustine said that “the church consists in the state of
communion of the whole world” (Ecclesiam in totius orbis communione
consistere). Wherever we are connected, in right relationship, you might say “in
love,” there is the Christ, the Body of God, and there is the church. But we whittled
that Great Mystery down into something small, exclusive, and manageable too. The
church became a Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant private club, and not necessarily
with people who were “in communion” with anything else, usually not with the
natural world, animals, with non-Christians, or even with other Christians outside
their own denomination. It became a very tiny salvation, hardly worthy of the name.
God was not very victorious at all.
Our very suffering now, our condensed presence on this common nest that we have
fouled, will soon be the one thing that we finally share in common. It might well be
the one thing that will bring us together. The Earth and its life systems on which we
all entirely depend (just like God!) might soon become the very thing that will convert
us to a simple Gospel lifestyle, to necessary community, and to an inherent and
universal sense of the holy.
I know it is no longer words, doctrines, and mental belief systems that can or will
reveal the fullness of this Cosmic Christ. This Earth indeed is the very Body of God,
and it is from this body that we are born, live, suffer, and resurrect to eternal life.
Either all is God’s Great Project, or we may rightly wonder whether anything is God’s
Great Project. One wonders if we humans will be the last to accept this.
“From the beginning until now, the entire creation has been groaning in one great act of
giving birth, and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first fruits of the Spirit, we
also groan inwardly, as we wait for our bodies to be set free” (Romans 8:22-23). It seems that St. Paul is saying here that we human ones might be the last ones to jump aboard
God’s great plan. There is the groaning of growing in all of creation, and the groaning
of resisting and “waiting” in us humans.
All of creation, it seems, has been obedient to its destiny, “each mortal thing does one
thing and the same … myself it speaks and spells, crying ‘What I do is me, for that I
came’” (Gerard Manley Hopkins, When Kingfishers Catch Fire). Wouldn’t it be our last
and greatest humiliation, surely the “first being last,” (Matt. 20:16) if we one day
realized that all other creatures have obeyed their destiny unblinkingly and with
trustful surrender. Watch the plants and animals!
It is only humans who have resisted “the one great act of giving birth,” and in fact
have frequently chosen death for themselves and for so many others.
From Radical Grace, April-May-June, Volume 23, Number 2, 2010.