Monday, February 13, 2012 — Week of 6 Epiphany, Year Two
Absalom Jones, Priest 1818
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 949)
Psalms 89:1-18 (morning) 89:19-52 (evening)
1 John 1:1-10
“…this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us…” 1 John 1:2
The epistle of 1 John begins not unlike the gospel of John — “In the beginning was the Word… What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” (John 1:1a,4)
One of the ways of thinking about the process of life is to see creation as the Divine emptying Itself of its transcendent nature into material creation, a process of “involution” — Spirit becomes matter; out of no-thing is something. From that point on, creation is being gathered back into its Source, a process of evolution. The Divine is deeply involved in drawing creation into higher levels of consciousness, until in human beings, “the universe becomes conscious of itself.” (Julian Huxley)
In some sense, each human life moves through the whole process of evolution into fuller consciousness. We begin as a single cell and through cell division and specialization, we are born into life with a primitive, animal nature, requiring prompt attention to our instinctual needs for food, comfort, shelter, and sense pleasure.
By ages 2-4 we have processed much sensory information, developing an emotional life with likes and dislikes. We live in a magical world, where the part and the whole are interchangeable, still unable to distinguish imagination from reality. But we begin to recognize our sense of body-self as being distinct from other objects. When an object is removed from our field of vision, we know it still exists outside our vision.
We evolve into what Thomas Keating calls the Mythic Membership level of consciousness, when we interiorize the values of parents, culture and peer groups. It is a tribal consciousness, with deep loyalty and over-identification with family, peer group, ethic group, nation, religious affiliation, ect.
Sometime between 7-15 years, the capacity for logical and abstract thinking increases. The intuitive powers of the right brain are activated. We can begin to reflect self-critically on the inherited information of our affiliative groups. We can move from self-centered values toward the higher values of compassion and unconditional love. We become rational beings of full personhood, reflective and self-conscious.
If we continue to grow, we can experience an intuitive sense of oneness with the cosmos, an identity of belonging to the whole human family. We transcend the instinct to compete and become motivated by an inclination to serve.
Early Christian theologians spoke of God’s particular entry into the process through the incarnation of Jesus — God became human so that humanity might become divine. “God became man so that men might become gods.” “The Word became flesh … that we, partaking of his Spirit, might be deified.” (St. Athanasius) God “became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.” (St. Ireaneus of Lyon) St. Gregory of Nazianzus urged his listeners to “become gods for (God’s) sake, since (God) became man for our sake.”
Each of us in our own particular life brings to God the whole of creation in self-offering. We are mineral, vegetable, and animal evolved into enough self-consciousness that we can praise God and serve creation in God’s name. Insofar as we can grow into the divine consciousness, each of us can contribute to the evolution and healing of the whole. We can become one with God in Christ, at peace in union with ourselves, with all humanity, and with creation and the universe itself. Our self-emptying into life allows the divine to fill us with life, and we can recapitulate the divine enterprise, becoming truly who we are.
1 John encourages us, “We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our/your joy may be complete.” (1:3-4)