The Christ Project (Richard Rohr)

Second, for Teilhard, to love God requires loving the world as well, since what God brought forth in the evolving cosmos is precisely God’s loving self-expression. For Teilhard, because God loves the totality of creation unconditionally and wants it to evolve to its destined completion, we too should learn to love the cosmos with a passion. Our challenge in spirituality is to realize how totally integrated we humans are with all creation and how best to work toward creation’s divinely desired evolutionary fulfillment.

Third, for Teilhard, this new evolutionary scientific information (less than a century old) allows us to look at all of creation in its multi-billion-year history and give a richer and more concrete meaning to what God is trying to do in the world. Saint Paul described God’s “hidden purpose” (Ephesians 3:9-10) as “building the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-6, 13). Jesus expressed it in his prayer “That all may be one as you, Father, are in me and I am in you” (John 17:21). The church’s tradition tries to express this oneness that God is trying to accomplish as “building the Mystical Body of Christ.” Teilhard’s vision of what God is trying to do is what I like to call the “Christ Project.”

God’s Christ Project encompasses the entire evolving universe, and its aim is to bring creation (along with all of us) back to God, fully conscious of our divine origin and divine destiny. . . .

For Teilhard, although each individual soul is intimately known and unconditionally loved by God, in the end the one Person that God wants to “save” and bring to perfection is the cosmic-sized Christ, in whom lives the entire universe that God lovingly created and set into an evolutionary process almost fourteen billion years ago (Ephesians 1:9-10).

You Are the Body of Christ (Richard Rohr)

Christ is the eternal amalgam of matter and spirit as one. They hold and reveal one another. Wherever the human and the divine coexist, we have the Christ. Wherever the material and the spiritual coincide, we have the Christ. That includes the material world, the natural world, the animal world (including humans), and moves all the way to the elemental world, symbolized by bread and wine. The Eucharist just offers Christians the message in very condensed form so we can struggle with it in a specific and concrete way. We cannot think about such a universal truth logically; we can only slowly digest it! It is the spiritual version of healthy eating and nutrition.

Only gradually does the truth become believable. Finally, the Body of Christ is not out there or over there; it’s in you—it’s here and now and everywhere. The goal is then to move beyond yourself and recognize that what’s true in you is true in all others too. This was supposed to spark a political and social revolution. But Christians wasted centuries arguing about whether it could even be true and how it might be true. The orthodox insistence on “Real Presence” is merely taking the Mystery of Incarnation to its natural, full, and very good conclusion. Here I am quite happy to be traditionally Catholic. “There is only Christ, he is everything, and he is in everything,” Paul shouts (see Colossians 3:11). This is not pantheism; it is the much more subtle and subversive panentheism, or God in all things. (The only trouble with our Catholic belief in “transubstantiation” is that this explanation smacked of pantheism, whereas panentheism would have been much easier to defend and understand.)

You and I are living here in this ever-expanding universe. You and I are a part of this Christ Mystery without any choice on our part. We just are, whether we like it or not. It’s nothing we have to consciously believe, although that sure helps and seems to accelerate the enjoyment. Incarnation is first of all announcing an objective truth. If we consciously take this mystery as our worldview, it will create a deep contentment and inherent dignity in those who trust it. It gives us all significance and a sense of belonging as part of God’s Great Work—no exceptions. We are no longer alienated from God, others, or the universe. Everything belongs from the beginning. And it has always been pure, undeserved gift. The utter gratuity of it all is what we cannot comprehend!

Participating in Christ allows me to know that I don’t matter at all, and yet I matter intensely—at the same time! That’s the ultimate therapeutic healing. I’m just a little grain of sand in this giant, giant universe. I’m going to pass from this form in a little while, just like everyone else will. But I’m also a child of God and part of the eternal Body of Christ. I’m connected radically, inherently, intrinsically to the Center and to everything else. I call this “ontological holiness” as opposed to the moral holiness most of us were taught and inside of which no one really succeeds.

The First Incarnation (Richard Rohr)

The first Incarnation of God did not happen in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. That is just the moment when it became human and personal, and many people began to take divine embodiment as a serious possibility. The initial Incarnation actually happened around 14 billion years ago with “The Big Bang.” That is what we now call the moment when God decided to materialize and self-expose, at least in this universe. The first “idea” in the mind of God was to make Divine Formlessness into physical form, so that everything visible is a further revelation of what has been going on secretly inside of God from all eternity. Love always outpours! God spoke the Eternal Blueprint/Idea called Christ, “and so it was!” (Genesis 1:9).

Two thousand years ago marks the Incarnation of God in Jesus, but before that there was the Incarnation through light, water, land, sun, moon, stars, plants, trees, fruit, birds, serpents, cattle, fish, and “every kind of wild beast” according to the Genesis creation story (1:3-25). This is the “Cosmic Christ” through which God has “let us know the mystery of God’s purpose, the hidden plan made from the beginning in Christ” (Ephesians 1:9-10). Christ is not Jesus’ last name, but the title for his life’s purpose. Christ is our word for what Jesus came to personally reveal and validate—which is true all the time and everywhere.

Most of Christian history has heard little or nothing about this timeless mystery, and we settled for a small tribal god instead. We put Jesus in competition with other religions instead of allowing him to ground the universal search for God in the material world itself, in nature, cosmos, and history—from the very beginnings of time. In other words, all creatures were capable of knowing and loving God long before the world religions formalized their doctrines and rituals (see Romans 1:20). Were the first millennia of human beings (San or Bushmen, Mayans, Celts, Aboriginals, and on and on) just trial runs and throwaways for a very inefficient God? That cannot be! God did not just start talking and loving 2,000 years ago. Infinite Love would never operate that way. “The Christ Mystery” proclaims that there is universal and equal access to God for all who have ever wanted love and union since the primal birth of humanity. In simple words, Stone Age people already had access to God!

As Colossians puts it: “Christ is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation” (1:15); Christ is the one glorious icon that names and reveals the entire arc of history. “The fullness is founded in Christ . . . everything in heaven and everything on earth” (Colossians 1:19-20). It gets better: God has never stopped thinking, dreaming, and creating the Christ, as this one mystery continues to unfold and evolve in time (see Romans 8:19-25). All of us are meant to be “the second coming of Christ,” but how can we recognize or honor this without recognizing both the first (creation) and the second (Jesus) Incarnations? (See John 1:9-11 and note the active participle verb: The Light was coming into the world. We now call that evolution.)

Christ Since the Beginning: The First Bible (Richard Rohr)

Sacred writings are bound in two volumes—that of creation and that of Holy Scripture. —Thomas Aquinas (1224–1274) [1]

Ever since God created the world, God’s everlasting power and deity—however invisible—have been there for the mind to see in the things God has made. —Romans 1:20

I think what Paul means here is that whatever we need to know about God can be found in nature. Nature itself is the primary Bible. The world is the locus of the sacred and provides all the metaphors that the soul needs for its growth.

If you scale chronological history down to the span of one year, with the Big Bang on January 1, then our species, Homo sapiens, doesn’t appear until 11:59 p.m. on December 31. That means the written Bible and Christianity appeared in the last nanosecond of December 31. I can’t believe that God had nothing to say until the last moment of December 31. Rather, as both Paul and Thomas Aquinas say, God has been revealing God’s love, goodness, and beauty since the very beginning through the natural world of creation. “God looked at everything God had made, and found it very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Acknowledging the intrinsic value and beauty of creation, elements, plants, and animals is a major paradigm shift for most Western and cultural Christians. In fact, we have often dismissed it as animism or paganism. We limited God’s love and salvation to our own human species, and, even then, we did not have enough love to go around for all of humanity! God ended up looking quite miserly and inept, to be honest.

Listen instead to the Book of Wisdom (13:1, 5):

How dull are all people who, from the things-that-are, have not been able to discover God-Who-Is, or by studying the good works have failed to recognize the Artist. . . . Through the grandeur and beauty of the creatures we may, by analogy, contemplate their Author.

Sister Ilia Delio writes in true Franciscan style:

The world is created as a means of God’s self-revelation so that, like a mirror or footprint, it might lead us to love and praise the Creator. We are created to read the book of creation so that we may know the Author of Life. This book of creation is an expression of who God is and is meant to lead humans to what it signifies, namely, the eternal Trinity of dynamic, self-diffusive love. [2]

All you have to do today is go outside and gaze at one leaf, long and lovingly, until you know, really know, that this leaf is a participation in the eternal being of God. It’s enough to create ecstasy. The seeming value or dignity of an object doesn’t matter; it is the dignity of your relationship to the thing that matters. For a true contemplative, a gratuitously falling leaf will awaken awe and wonder just as much as a golden tabernacle in a cathedral.