Incarnation – Celebrating an Eternal Advent – by Richard Rohr

In the first 1200 years of Christianity, the greatest feast was Easter with the high holy days of Holy Week leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. But in the 13th century, a new person entered the scene: Francis of Assisi felt we didn’t need to wait for God to love us through the cross and resurrection. Francis intuited that the whole thing started with incarnate love, and he popularized what we now take for granted as Christmas, which for many became the greater Christian feast. The Franciscans popularized Christmas. Maybe their intuition was correct.

Francis realized that if God had become flesh—taken on materiality, physicality, humanity—then we didn’t have to wait for Good Friday and Easter to “solve the problem” of human sin; the problem was solved from the beginning. It makes sense that Christmas became the great celebratory feast of Christians because it basically says that it’s good to be human, it’s good to be on this earth, it’s good to be flesh, it’s good to have emotions. We don’t need to be ashamed of any of this. God loves matter and physicality.

With that insight, it’s no wonder Francis went wild over Christmas! (I do, too: my little house is filled with candles at Christmastime.) Francis believed that every tree should be decorated with lights to show their true status as God’s creations! And that’s exactly what we still do 800 years later.

Remember, when we speak of Advent or preparing for Christmas, we’re not just talking about waiting for the little baby Jesus to be born. That already happened 2,000 years ago. In fact, we’re welcoming the Universal Christ, the Cosmic Christ, the Christ that is forever being born in the human soul and into history.

And believe me, we do have to make room, because right now there is no room in the inn for such a mystery. We see things pretty much in their materiality, but we don’t see the light shining through. We don’t see the incarnate spirit that is hidden inside of everything material.

The early Eastern Church, which too few people in the United States and Western Europe are familiar with, made it very clear that the incarnation was a universal principle. Incarnation meant not just that God became Jesus; God said yes to the material universe. God said yes to physicality. Eastern Christianity understands the mystery of incarnation in the universal sense. So it is always Advent. God is forever coming into the world (see John 1:9).

We’re always waiting to see spirit revealing itself through matter. We’re always waiting for matter to become a new form in which spirit is revealed. Whenever that happens, we’re celebrating Christmas. The gifts of incarnation just keep coming. Perhaps this is enlightenment.

Universal Love

Love [people] even in [their] sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole  and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky

God restores rather than punishes, which is a much higher notion of how things are “justified” before God. The full and final Biblical message is restorative justice, but most of history has only been able to understand retributive justice. Now, I know you’re probably thinking of many passages in the Old Testament that sure sound like serious retribution. And I can’t deny there are numerous black and white, vengeful scriptures, which is precisely why we must recognize that all scriptures are not equally inspired or from the same level of consciousness.

Please take a moment to read Father Rohr’s full meditation.

The meditation concludes with these powerful words…

As long as your ego is in charge, you will demand a retributive God; you’ll insist that hell is necessary. But if you have been transformed by love, hell will no longer make sense to you because you know that God has always loved you in your sinfulness. Why would God change policies after death?  

We are all saved by mercy and grace without exception—before, during, and after our life in this world. Could God’s love really be that great and universal? Love is the lesson, and God’s love is so great that God will finally teach it to all of us. Who would be able to resist it once they see it? We’ll finally surrender, and God—Love—will finally win. God never loses. That is what it means to be God. That will be God’s “justice,” which will swallow up our lesser versions of retributive justice.

– Fr. Richard Rohr

 

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 – Paraphrased by Brother Joseph Schmidt

If I live my life to perfection, doing what is right and good on behalf of others, but act with compulsion and without love, then I am nothing at all. 

If I take care of the needs of everybody in the world, especially the poor, because of my own need to help, but am without love even for myself, then I am nothing at all.

If I am efficient and successful in all that I do for the sake of justice, but act out of drivenness and without love, then I am nothing at all.

If I am cultured and refined, and in touch with the pain of existence, but am absent from the pain of persons in the present moment who need my empathy; and if I act without love and compassion, then I am nothing at all.

If I have the gifts of wisdom, insight, and understanding, but am not engaged with those around me in the present moment and am without a spirit of compassion and love, then I am nothing at all.

If I am faithful, loyal, and obedient, and never deviate from the law, but am judgmental and blaming, and am without love, then I am nothing at all.

If I live in a pain-free world of dreams and plans, enjoying optimism and pleasurable options, but am not addressing present problems and am avoiding people in actual distress and am without love, then I am nothing at all.

If I am strong and powerful, but lose my best self in a spirit of resentment, retaliation, and vindictiveness, and know nothing of the vulnerability of love, then I am nothing at all.

If I am settled and accommodating, holding onto a sense of distance and calm, but am not journeying inward to know and appreciate my weaknesses and gifts, and am neglecting my own legitimate calling to love myself, then I am nothing at all.

Love is always patient and kind;

it is never jealous;

love is never boastful or conceited;

it is never rude or selfish;

it does not take offense, and is not resentful.

Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in truth;

it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love never fails, never ceases.

Beyond Words by Richard Rohr

All words are metaphors approximating the hard-knock of reality itself. That doesn’t mean we throw words and ideas out. Quite the contrary! The best Jewish approach to scripture study was called midrash; they struggled with the text, unraveled it, looked at its various possible meanings, and offered a number of interpretations that often balanced and complemented one another. There was never just one meaning, or one certain meaning that eliminated all others. If only Christianity had imitated our Jewish forebears in this regard our history would have been so much more peaceful and life giving.

After the Enlightenment in the 17th century, we regressed in many ways as religion wanted to compete with the rational, intelligent thinkers of Europe. The later Protestant Reformation moved forward with this mind as individuals and groups claimed there was only one correct interpretation of every scripture. Catholics looked to the Pope for that one correct interpretation. It’s no surprise there are 30,000 Protestant denominations today, and Catholicism became so monarchical. We will never agree on the meanings of words. That’s why the Word became flesh, to reveal that words can’t get you there. Only experience, love, and relationship can.

Jesus’ truth claim was his person (John 14:6), his presence (John 6:35), and his ability to participate in God’s perfect love (John 17:21-22). Emphasizing perfect agreement on words and forms, instead of inviting people into an experience of the Formless Presence, has caused much of the violence of human history. Jesus gives us his risen presence as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). No dogma will ever substitute for that.

Most of Jesus’ teaching is walking with people on the streets, out in the desert, and often into nature. His examples come from the things he sees around him: birds, flowers, landlords and tenants, little children, women baking and sweeping, farmers farming. Jesus teaches with anecdote, parable, and concrete example much more than creating a systematic theology. Particulars seem to most open us up to universals. “Thisness” is the actual spiritual doorway to the everywhere and the always, much more than concepts. Incarnation is always specific and concrete, here and now, like this bread and this wine, and this ordinary moment, or this half-crazy person right in front of me.

Adapted from Hell, No! (CD, MP3 download)–Coming soon!;
and Things Hidden: Scripture As Spirituality, pp. 124, 126-127

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A Lectio Divina for Today’s Christians by Richard Rohr

Read the following passage slowly and aloud four times. With the first reading, listen with your heart’s ear for a phrase or word that stands out for you. During the second reading, reflect on what touches you, perhaps speaking that response aloud or writing in a journal. Third, respond with a prayer or expression of what you have experienced and what it calls you to. Fourth, rest in silence after the reading.

The Shining Word “And”

“And” teaches us to say yes
“And” allows us to be both-and
“And” teaches us to be patient and long-suffering
“And” is willing to wait for insight and integration
“And” does not divide the field of the moment
“And” helps us to live in the always imperfect now
“And” keeps us inclusive and compassionate toward everything
“And” demands that our contemplation become action
“And” insists that our action is also contemplative
“And” is the mystery of paradox in all things
“And” is the way of mercy
“And” makes daily, practical love possible

Adapted from The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See,
pp. 180-181 – Fr. Richard Rohr

NOTE: “In ChristianityLectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictinepractice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word.[1] It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.” – Wikipedia

 

Only Love Can Handle the Truth – Richard Rohr

Fr. Rohr’s daily meditations play an important part in my faith formation – this one stands out among the rest.  A third way – standing in between – embracing the mystery that comes with being mere human.  There is no such thing as “real truth, real quick”.  This is what being a blessed fool is all about.

The contemplative mind does not need to prove anything or disprove anything. It’s what the Benedictines called a Lectio Divinaa reading of the Scripture that looks for wisdom instead of quick answers. It first says, “What does this text ask of me? How can I change because of this story?” And not “How can I use this to prove that I am right and others are wrong or sinful?”

The contemplative mind is willing to hear from a beginner’s mind, yet also learn from Scripture, Tradition—and others. It has the humility to move toward Yes/And thinking and not all-or-nothing thinking. It leads to a “Third Way,” which is neither fight nor flight, but standing in between—where I can hold what I do know together with what I don’t know. Holding such a creative tension with humility and patience leads us to wisdom instead of easy answers which largely create opinionated and smug people instead of wise people. We surely need wise people now, who hold their truth humbly and patiently.

Parachurch As a New Kind of Reformation – Fr. Richard Rohr – Daily Meditations – 44 of 52

What some call “Emerging Christianity” has four common elements, in my opinion, even if they might be described in different ways:

  • There is a new honest, broad, and ecumenical Jesus scholarship. We are reading what theologians of all denominations are saying. And the amazing thing is that, at this level of scholarship at least, there is a strong consensus emerging about what Jesus really taught and emphasized.
     
  • There is a reemergence of a contemplative mind in all of the churches. It’s not content with the dualistic mind which has dominated for the last five hundred years. Contemplation receives the whole field of the moment and lets such an open lens teach us—both what we understand along with what we don’t understand. Finally there is room for mystery and the acceptance of even being wrong or just partially right.
     
  • This consensus (both at the scholarly and experiential levels) is revealing that Jesus tended to emphasize very different things than present organized Christianity tends to emphasize. Present organized Christianity (in all denominations) tends to be preoccupied with things that Jesus never talked about ever, and sometimes even disagreed with. 
     
  • New community structures and new parallel church organizations are often emerging and flourishing to make this possible. (The CAC would be an example of such a “parachurch” group, as well as Hospice, Habitat for Humanity, various social service ministries, contemplative prayer groups, and volunteer and mission work, etc.) None of these are in competition with Sunday religion, but they give us ways to actually do what we are told to do on Sunday. The emphasis is often orthopraxy (practice) instead of just repeating the orthodox creeds every Sunday.

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