Email sent this afternoon to my spiritual director and and copied here so I don’t forget what I said or, worse, lose it in my increasingly cluttered “sent” queue. After asking to reschedule our appointment, I wrote:
… I didn’t have much to show you anyway. I’ve been doing more reading than writing the last few weeks, partly because so much else has been going on in my life. In addition to our medical saga(s), Debi’s mother passed away late Sunday, and her visitation and funeral are Friday night and Saturday up in the Quad-City area. I’ll link FYI to her obituary:
Also I think it would be a good idea to postpone a couple more weeks because I keep getting this feeling I need to stop, do some reading and think things through, anyway, before I go back to my spiritual exercises. Sometimes a little writer’s block can be a good thing — a little hint that I’m stalling out and I need to refocus — and I think this has been one of those times.
Last night, before I knew about the doctor’s appointment, I outlined some of what I’ve been reading — also mentioned a couple of things I think it would be worthwhile to pursue in my spiritual formation.
So here’s what I wrote earlier:
Mostly I’ve been reading Ilia Delio and Richard Rohr. (I’ve also started back to work on a historical writing project, about the way Swedish Lutheran immigrants in the upper Midwest perceived confession, the Eucharist, etc., in contrast to the hellfire-and-damnation Calvinist theology they encountered in America. I think it’s important, and really cool, that I’ve started back on it — I’d been writing articles and presenting papers on the Swedes up till President Trump got elected, but let it slide as I got more involved in “resistance” activities on social media and generally depressed by the way things are going. This is not unrelated to my spiritual formation, since the issues keep spilling over from the church history to spiritual matters — and vice versa — but it’s certainly not my focus here.)
Anyway, there are a couple of things in Delio [“A Reply To Richard Rohr On The Cosmic Christ,” Omega Center, Oct. 17, 2017, linked below] and Rohr’s “The Universal Christ” [London: SPCK, 2019] that I think may be worth exploring … but only, as always, if you think they’re worth pursuing.
1. In “Universal Christ,” Rohr says he saw “another incarnation of the Divine Presence, the Christ” in his black Labrador retriever, and added, more generally, “When you look at any other person, a flower, a honeybee, a mountain — anything — you are seeing the incarnation of God’s love for you and the universe.” And this, “I hope a larger understanding is dawning for you. Anything that draws you out of yourself in a positive way — for all practical purposes is operating as God for you at that moment. How else can the journey begin? How else are you drawn forward, now not by idle beliefs but by inner aliveness? God needs something to seduce you out and beyond yourself, so God uses three things in particular: goodness, truth, and beauty. All three have the capacity to draw us into an experience of union.”
Rohr adds, “You cannot think your way into this kind of radiant, expansive seeing. … The Christ is always given freely, tossed like a baton from the other side. Our only part in the process is to reach out and catch it every now and then.” (Rohr 52) A good reminder, I think, to try not to intellectualize too much!
2. In a review of Rohr’s “Universal Christ,” Delio seems to cover some of the same ground:
The Christ, therefore, is not an abstract symbol but the communion of divine persons-in-love expressed in personal form. The real content of this symbol is shown in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. So does everyone have to become Christian to know the Christ? Absolutely not; Christ is more than Jesus. Christ is the communion of divine personal love expressed in every created form of reality—every star, leaf, bird, fish, tree, rabbit and every human person. Everything is christified because everything expresses divine love incarnate. However, Jesus Christ is the “thisness” of God (‘God is like this and this is God’) so what Jesus is by nature everything else is by grace (divine love). We are not God but every single person is born out of the love of God, expresses this love in his/her unique personal form and has the capacity to be united with God. It is for this reason that the Franciscan theologian Bonaventure described the mystery of Jesus Christ as a coincidence of opposites. Because Jesus is the Christ, every human is already reconciled with every other human in the mystery of divine so that Christ is more than Jesus alone; Christ is the whole reality bound in a union of love.
It’s in her Omega Center blog at https://omegacenter.info/reply-to-richard-rohr-cosmic-christ/. I have an easier time understanding it, frankly, than I do her other writing, and I think it’s very intriguing. I’ve printed it out, and I plan to keep re-reading it.
Anyway, I think these ideas — or these variations on the general idea of incarnation and the nature of Christ — might fit together nicely with the progress I’ve been making with lectio divina. Even though I’ve been too preoccupied lately to do a lot of focused meditation, I don’t want to give that up. But this idea of seeing Christ in leaves, flowers, bumblebees, fish, trees and rabbits has a here-and-nowness that might make a nice complement to reading scripture.
Please let me know about rescheduling at your convenience.
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Peter Ellertsen, 2125 S Lincoln Ave, Springfield IL 62704. For random notes on dulcimers, history, hymnody, cultural studies and all kinds of music, visit my research blog “Hogfiddle” at hogfiddle.wordpress.com.