Jesus: The Template of Paradox

“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”.

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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!

Go Further:

Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning To See As the Mystics See

Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation

Amos Smith, Healing the Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots

Laurence Freeman, Jesus the Teacher Within

Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks – This is a great way to listen to books with your cell phone while you drive, walk or relax at home.  I frequently listen in my car during my commute to and from work.  I’m a proud affiliate.

Holy Silence: The Quaker Way by J. Brent Bill:  Quaker silence is not about stillness, as such, but rather about encountering God in a living and vital holy hush. This e-course encourages women and men to undertake a journey of spiritual silence. The destination is a quiet inner place where God teaches us directly. Friends (as Quakers are formally known) have been honing their take on silence for more than 350 years. It’s a silence that invites us to an immediate and personal encounter with God. That’s because Quakers believe that when we are silent, then the Spirit of God grants us insights, guidance, and understanding of spiritual truth.

How might your life change if you were steeped more deeply in the wisdom of the Christian Mystics? Drawing on the best available writing on the topic of Christian Mysticism both ancient and modern, Contemplative Light is offering a special course on the Christian Mystics Sacred Lives: An Introduction To The Christian Mystics.

Contemplative Practices: 5 Ways of Consenting to the Divine – Learn methods practiced by Christian mystics for centuries to consent to the action and presence of God within, including Centering Prayer, The Examen, Lectio Divina, Christian Meditation, and the Jesus Prayer.

Writing as a Spiritual Practice: This course helps you to access the rich spiritual stories that lie deeply within you. Words are powerful. The words that you write can be used to:

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2 thoughts on “Jesus: The Template of Paradox”

  1. The Paradoxical Secret buried since the foundations of the Church were first laid, is that God’s abandonment by God on the Cross on Good Friday is not simply the darkest moment in world history, it’s a shocking revelation that the engine room of the Universe is itself caught up in an irreconcilable conflict, that everything begins in this senseless nightmare that forever trembles in the sacred depths, and that all new birth comes out this divine madness in which God is not at one with God, but always already torn between these opposing forces without resolution…

    Christ brought the world a total revolution in what we mean by the name of God, and its a revolution that the Christianity is still yet to come to grips with. In the beginning, there is not a unified, harmoniously integrated ontological foundation of spiritual plenitude. The ground of existence is never fully “at one” with itself, but is always already minimally un-grounded, or ridden from within by an irresolvable conflict, and bursting at the seams with contradictory tensions, so that being is itself forever off-center and inwardly disturbed by a primordial antagonism without resolution at the heart of its innermost core…

    In other words, the emergence of freedom, love and our deeper creative passions is made possible by the lack of an integrated organic foundation as the grounding basis of the subject’s being. We see this in the central event of Christianity, i.e. Christ’s howl of dereliction on the Cross, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” There is a deep religious and existential pathos here, akin to Jacob wrestling in the darkness not knowing which way to turn, there is a moment of madness at the core of God’s own self, for the crucified Jesus doesn’t have his fingers crossed knowing that there’s a resurrection on the way.

    From the properly Christian standpoint – this is God who is speaking here on the Cross, and God says what is unspeakable: that he has been forsaken by God. So the shattering impact of the death of Christ is the disclosure that God’s own self is internally ruptured, inwardly split by a radical discord, that God is wrenched apart by a gaping, traumatic wound, where the distinctive feature of the Christian faith leads us to ask: what it is about the emergence of humanity in the life of God that seems to be grounded on a kind of derangement and catastrophe, where deep down things are out of joint, and where things have never been harmonious?

    And so, what if the central paradox of Christianity is that we encounter in the Crucifixion-event the shocking revelation that God is incommensurable with God’s self, in the sacred depths of things God does not coincide with God, and that there’s the divine madness of a fundamental antagonism in the very fabric of being that cannot be either mastered or eradicated?

    For what there is, in the end, is an irresolvable paradox of antagonistic tensions forever trembling in the primordial depths of creation. As the cataclysmic non-ground that is radically otherwise to any temporally constituted unity – and therefore destabilizing to the rational grounding of any presumed totality and every world-system, this perpetual wrestling between contradictory forces not only precedes and sets the stage for all new birth, as the immanent driving force of all temporal becoming it constitutes the “condition of possibility” for the emergence of new forms of serendipitous creativity, for this primordial antagonism at the heart of reality itself is what keeps the future open by making the transformation of the world as we know it possible, from out of the disruptive darkness and into the light of new life…

    Incredulity here is entirely understandable, for we are breaking with the history of religion and all the great spiritual traditions the world over. However, it is the perennial the age-old problem of the transition from the One into the conflicts and contradictions of the Many that’s never been resolved, and that’s because the question itself rests on a fundamentally flawed assumption.

    “For how should what is in itself one, whole and perfect, be tempted, charmed, and enticed to emerge out of this peace? The transition from contradiction to unity, on the other hand, is natural, for contradiction is insufferable to everything and everything that finds itself in it will not repose until it has found the unity that reconciles or overcomes it.” (Schelling “Ages of the World”))

    In other words, without antagonism or contradiction, there would be no life, no movement, no progress, just a deadly slumber of all forces. Only contradiction drives us – indeed, forces us – to action, and all vital motion is nothing but the attempt to overcome this unbearable tension in the depths of things. And this means that the universe exists precisely because there is a primordial dissonance in the Absolute, and that only an entity that is in itself hindered, dislocated – that is, one that lacks its ‘proper place,’ that is by definition ‘out of joint’ – can immediately refer to the engine room of the universe and the deep structure of reality (and consciousness) as such!

    God’s creation is not justified by its unshakable peace, underlying order or pre-established rational harmony but by an irremediably unstable balance of forces, a core or “primordial” dissonance. God’s creation unfolds in constant struggle, in an unrelenting, unstable tension between opposing forces that is the pure combat of becoming. All life must pass through the fire of contradiction, were there only unity and everything was in peace, then, truly nothing would want to stir itself and everything would sink into listlessness, and so this irresolvable conflict in the broken heart of God’s own self is the engine of life and its innermost essence.

    And so the restless flow of temporal reality exists because Spirit is not whole, complete or at one with everything, but wrenched apart by fundamental antagonism. Not only does this reconfiguration of the Absolute as “not at one” with itself correspond with our current scientific understanding of evolution and emergent complexity – where maximal disequilibrium is the site of creative novelty, the affirmation of a gaping wound in the very heart of being (crucifixion) is also the that which makes a new kind of life and spiritual health possible (resurrection).

    Again, if the Absolute in harmony with itself for eternity, it would remain so. It would be constantly One and would never go out of itself into the finite world of multiplicity and contradiction. and nothing would ever happen.

    And so big question that now confronts the future of Christian theology is: how does one get people to stop being seduced by the fantasy of original peace and wholeness and the promise that we can eliminate the dis-harmonious discord of reality itself and to start realizing that it is this inner strife and disharmony that we do not dare to try and know that makes transformation of everything possible in the first place?

    Perhaps Nietzsche was right on the mark when he mused that “The whole of religion might yet appear as a prelude and exercise to some distant age…” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

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