Like the rings on a tree, once again, Holy Week is upon us, marking another cycle of celebrating and entering into the life that culminated in the mysterious events that shook the world 2000 years ago in a small, out-of-way province of the Roman empire. The reverberations continue to be felt down to the present time and will doubtlessly be felt way beyond the present time. The most sacred week in the year for Christians poses a time to reflect upon Holy Week’s essential message and its meaning for us.
In The Emergent Christ, the contemporary theologian and writer Ilia Delio takes the cosmic view of Christ’s Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection and our place in it.
Evolution means that Christ is not yet complete and we are not complete. In Jesus, God’s self-communication to creation explodes into history. Evolution assumes an explicit direction. God evolves the universe and brings it to its completion through the instrumentality of human beings. Jesus is the Christ, the climax of that long development whereby the world becomes aware of itself and comes into the direct presence of God.
The teaching that Jesus is the Christ means Jesus is not any person but the fully integrated person in whom God has revealed Godself in the most complete way. In Jesus, the Christ becomes explicit; hence, the meaning of the cosmos becomes explicit as well. The whole creation is intended to be a unity in love in union with God.
Those who proclaim themselves Christian proclaim belief in the risen Christ and must be on the way toward development of a transcultural consciousness and thus transcultural encounters. In Jesus we see that the future of the material universe is linked to the fulfillment of the community of human beings in whom the world has come to consciousness.
The evolutionary process is moving toward evolution of consciousness and… What took place in the life of Jesus must take place in our lives as well, if creation is to move toward completion and transformation in God… healing divisions and forming relationships that promote greater unity.
Jesus marks a new direction in evolution toward integrated being, healthy relationships and healing presence, all of which contribute to the act of a new future. As the wellspring of divine love emerging from within, Jesus shows us what it means to be a human person and the way to deepen our humanity toward the fullness of life… His humanity is our humanity and his life is our life. What took place in Jesus’ life must take place in ours.
Thomas Keating also asserts that Jesus is the paradigm of humanity, the universal human being—God’s idea of human nature with its enormous potentialities. Christ as Jesus emptied himself of his divine purgatives and comes into the world and identifies with our weakness, blindness, developmental processes, and all the harm that our limited ways of functioning manifest. And he offers us love, opening wide in total vulnerability. As he stretched out his arms on the cross, he embraced all creation, all suffering, weakness, and all life.
We too are invited into this consciousness—beyond self and its limited ideas of security, esteem, and control and into the very life of the divine. How? Through our faults, blindness, ignorance, and weakness of will. Remember that in the Agony in the Garden, Jesus experienced the all-too-human sense of the spirit being willing, but the flesh being weak and prayed that the sufferings ahead of him might be spared. That means that he felt to the very bottom, the consequences of the human condition and weakness, moved through them, and entered into a love wherein only God could heal what needed to be healed.
You might say that the Divine becoming, which is the revelation of Jesus’ life, goes something like this: The spiritual life is a consent to God’s plan. The first step is to become aware that there is this Other. That is, there is a presence, an ultimate mystery, and an ultimate reality or something beyond being or non-being. This is the “I am,” that simply is. This extraordinary state of consciousness alerts us to the fact that we are not alone, that humanity is not alone, the cosmos is not alone, but rather is totally penetrated in the greatest and the highest and in the lowest and the infinitesimal by the divine mystery that is absolutely unlimited.
To become aware that there is Another starts us off a searching for some kind of guide, religion, teaching, nature, or other profound human experience. What will happen if we continue to pursue our knowledge of the Other? Well, the next step is to come to union with the Other. This is the meaning of the imitation of Christ—perhaps not much in external activities as in the consciousness, the interior disposition, the being of Christ.
Then you are participating in the becoming process, evolving as Christ. As Thomas Keating has noted: You receive the sacraments into being the sacraments. In other words, you receive the Eucharist to be the Eucharist, so that at some point you are the Eucharist radiating the Divine Presence wherever you go without thinking about it, just by being whatever level of yourself you are becoming.
Finally, there’s a stage in this becoming process when there is no Other. We have disappeared into our nothingness as creatures and allowed God to give us everything—which is Godself. This is a big project. Thomas Keating has said that his life’s project is about becoming nothing and, what’s more, it takes a surprising amount of time! But what else is there to do?
Mary Anne Best is the finance and development director for Contemplative Outreach, overseeing the stewardship of financial resources and fundraising to support programs and offerings. Mary Anne also edits and coordinates the development of new works of Thomas Keating, organizes and staffs Centering Prayer retreats, and is a principal writer for online courses and the Contemplative Life Program (CLP).
Join us June 13-15, 2018, for a retreat with Mary Anne Best, Fr. Carl Arico, and Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler, “Into Unity Consciousness: The Christian Contemplative Journey.”