“Jesus as the icon of the Christ Consciousness (1 Corinthians 2:16), is the very template of total paradox, human yet divine, heavenly yet earthly, physical yet spiritual, possessing a male body yet a female soul, killed yet alive, powerless yet powerful, victim yet victor, failure yet redeemer, resolving the great philosophical problem of the one and the many”. This is an amazing quote from Richard Rohr’s, “The Naked Now”.
Let me unpack it. I will not hit each point. I will hit ones that have meaning for me as I reflect upon Jesus and paradox.
Human Yet Divine
Not only is Jesus human he is also divine. However, we need to qualify this. What part of Jesus is divine? What part of Jesus is human? This question cannot be answered. Jesus is both. Jesus is both human and divine. They make him Whole.
To state that Jesus is only human diminishes who he is. To state that Jesus is only God diminishes who he is. Jesus is at once both human and divine. Let me also explain what I mean by divine. Jesus is not just a divine being. Jesus is God in the human flesh. Jesus is the manifestation of God in human form. Or as Brian Zahnd likes to say, “Jesus is what God has to say.”
We do not need to understand this. Our human minds want to put Jesus in one category. Jesus is human, end of story. Jesus is God, end of story. I suggest that we should let Jesus be both. Open to this beautiful mystery.
One way to open to this mystery is a silent prayer practice. During silent prayer we open to the pure presence of God (Jesus Christ). We let go and let God act in us. After silent prayer we get on with our daily duties, responsibilities and activities.
In other words, we perform our human (Jesus) actions. Let me also suggest that a consistent, daily silent prayer practice will help spawn human actions that over time reflect actions that Jesus the human being would take.
We learn about these actions in the Gospels. These actions include acts of compassion, forgiveness and inclusion. Our actions over time will also reflect the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
A long term silent prayer practice is one method to water the inherent fruits of the Spirit. It is a long term process. It is not a once and done process. After silent prayer we seem to notice that our human actions take on one or more of the characteristics of the fruits of the Spirit.
However, because we are human we then become frustrated, angry, jealous, depressed. These emotions begin to repress the inherent fruits of the Spirit. That is why we need to continue our daily silent prayer practice.
Silent prayer is an interior cleansing so we can get at the inherent fruits of the Spirit. Silent prayer waters and nourishes the fruits of the Spirit so they can bloom and flourish in our daily life.
Silent prayer is hard work. Not everyone is able to sit still. My silent prayer practice is centering prayer. I have chosen this particular contemplative practice. There are others. You must find one that works for you: that waters your inherent fruits of the Spirit. Here are few: walking, Christian Meditation, chanting, photography, music and painting. Each practice allows you to let go and open to God so God can freely act in you.
Male Body Yet A Female Soul
Jesus had a male body yet a female soul. Society often stereotypes men as strong, powerful and dominating. Jesus had these characteristics. However, Jesus also had a softer side to him. We might characterize this as feminine.
Jesus forgave. Jesus had compassion. Jesus reached out to those he considered marginalized. Jesus loved the unlovable. Jesus loved the unlovable as a mother loves her child. They were always welcome at his table. He wanted them to feel whole.
Jesus healed many both physically and emotionally. He made the unlovable whole. This is how he healed them. A mother wants to heal and love her children. Jesus was like a mother who wanted to heal and love his children.
Killed Yet Alive
Jesus was killed yet is alive. Jesus died an excruciating, painful, horrible death on the cross. Yet Jesus is alive. He rose from the dead. The Gospels talk of the multitudes who saw him again. The Gospels talk of his appearances with the disciples. The Gospels talk of the ongoing experiences of him that the communities continued to have after his death.
Though Jesus was dead, Jesus was very much alive too. Jesus was now an interior presence for those who looked within to find him.
Laurence Freeman reminds us “His continuing presence within the absence created by his death is the Gospel’s essential message. His disappearance in death and the absence of his visible form are the conditions of his presence in the Spirit. His absence is a necessary aspect of his presence.”
Yes. I agree with Richard Rohr. Jesus is indeed the very template of total paradox!
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Are you in the Philadelphia PA area? Invite me to speak or teach Centering Prayer at your church or community gathering. Feel free to contact Rich to obtain more information.
I use a Prayer Rope after each Centering Prayer Sit.
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The early Christians, teaches the Reverend Cynthia Bourgeault, were afire with the spirit of Jesus, inspired fully by his teaching of a total transformation of consciousness. How do we reclaim that fire today? On Encountering the Wisdom Jesus, this brilliant author and dynamic Episcopalian priest presents her first full-length audio course about rediscovering the Master of Wisdom. Twelve immersive sessions cover: the parables as wisdom tools; Jesus’s teachings about kenosis (or self-emptying: a path as radical today as it was 2,000 years ago); Jesus as tantric master; Centering Prayer, an approach to meditation as Jesus lived it, and much more. (Based upon her book, The Wisdom Jesus.)
Since the time of the Desert Fathers in the third century, Finley begins, Christian mystics have practiced meditation as a way of opening to the direct presence of God in daily life. Legendary seekers such as Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Meister Eckhart explored how meditation can lead us beyond the closed horizon of the ego, to an interior and holy refuge that is always available to us. On Christian Meditation, James Finley offers a gentle introduction to this all-transforming way of life, and the ever-deepening realization of oneness with Christ it leads us to. (Based upon his book, Christian Meditation.)
David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings. Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners.
Check out my review of Christian Prayer Methods by Dr. Philip St. Romain.
Check out Simply Good News by New Testament scholar and author N. T. Wright. It is based upon his book Simply Good News. You will instantly get into the heart of the idea of ‘good news’ as it was understood by the 1st Century writers of the New Testament. It works well for group studies.
How do we know that Jesus was actually raised from the dead in bodily form? This course with Prof. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, examines the extraordinary claim that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead in a bodily fashion to appear in person to people after his cruel death, crucifixion, and entombment.
Contemplative Light is a group of Spiritual Directors and writers. They offer a unique style of contemplative coaching based on the teachings and traditions of Christian Mysticism. Sign up for a Spiritual Map Session.