The Jesus story is the universe story

By Richard Rohr

The Mystery of the Cross
Sunday, April 23, 2017

It is a wisdom that none of the masters of this age have ever known, or they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. —1 Corinthians 2:8

Jesus’ life, death, and raising up is the whole pattern revealed, named, summed up, and assured for our own lives. It gives us the full trajectory that we might not recognize otherwise. He is the map. The Jesus story is the universe story. The Universal Christ is no threat to anything but separateness, illusion, domination, and the imperial ego. In that sense, Jesus, the Christ, is the ultimate threat, but first of all to Christians. Only when we follow Jesus through his life, death and resurrection will we have any universal and salvific message for the rest of the earth.

The lead up to and the follow up from the cross is the great interpretative key that makes the core pattern clear. It’s no accident that we have made the cross the Christian logo, because in the revelation of the cross, many great truths become obvious and even overwhelming, even though we do not want to see them.

Those who “gaze upon” (John 19:37) the Crucified long enough—with contemplative eyes—are always healed at deep levels of pain, unforgiveness, aggression, and victimhood. Contemplative gazing demands no theological education, just an “inner exchange” by receiving the image within and offering one’s soul back in safe return. C. G. Jung is supposed to have said that a naked man nailed to a cross is perhaps the deepest archetypal symbol in the Western psyche. [1]

The crucified Jesus offers, at a largely unconscious level, a very compassionate meaning system for history. Without such cosmic meaning and soul significance, the agonies and tragedies of Earth feel like Shakespeare’s “sound and fury signifying nothing” or “a tale told by an idiot.” The body can live without food more easily than the soul can live without such transformative meaning.

If all our crucifixions are leading to some possible resurrection, and are not dead-end tragedies, this changes everything. If God is somehow participating in the suffering of humans and creation, instead of just passively tolerating it and observing it, that also changes everything—at least for those who are willing to “gaze” contemplatively.

We Christians are given the privilege to name the mystery rightly and to know it directly and consciously, but in many ways we have not lived it much better than other religions and cultures. All humble, suffering souls can learn this from the flow of life itself, but the Christian Scriptures named it and revealed it to us publicly and dramatically in Jesus. It all depends on whether you have “gazed” long and deep enough at the paradoxical mystery of life and death.

 

Gateway to Silence:
I am crucified with Christ.

References:

[1] See Jerry Wright, “Christ, a Symbol of the Self,” C.G. Jung Society of Atlanta Quarterly News (Fall 2001), 6-8. Jung wrote extensively about Christ as archetype; Wright’s essay offers a brief overview of key ideas and resources. Available at http://www.jungatlanta.com/articles/fall01-crist-symbol-of-self.pdf

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 185-187

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