Sunday, July 9, 2023

Communion for the Cosmos

In the very beginning of all things, there was God. And with him were his Word and his Spirit, who with him were one God. Then God created the heavens and the earth, and all things in heaven and earth were made by the Word of God. Without the Word, nothing was made that has been made. In this Word was pure life, and that life was the light of the whole cosmos, the entire creation, from the very first day it existed. This Word was the life and light of the first atoms that came together. This Word was the life and light of the first stars to be born. This Word was the life and light of the newborn earth. This Word was the life and light of the first tiny bit of biology on the planet. This Word was the life and light of all that teemed in the sea, all that crawled upon the land, all that lifted itself to the skies. This Word was the life and light of mosses and flowers and trees, of dinosaurs and mammals, and of each and every one of us. Yes, this Word was life and light for this whole great system across the world, down through time, and out into the wide universe. There's not a far-flung world out in the depths of space, galaxies away, where this very Word of our God isn't its life and its light (John 1:1-4).

And then, one day, “the True Light, which enlightens every human, was coming into the cosmos” (John 1:9). And the True Light, the True Life, the Word, came into the cosmos here, in this galaxy, in this solar system, on this planet, as one of our very species. Of all the wide-ranging sorts of things that the cosmos contains, the Word took on the flesh and blood of Homo sapiens and pitched his tabernacle in the midst of the earth and its inhabitants (John 1:14). Because this whole vast cosmos was disordered by our sin, because the cosmos had always been meant to find its unity in and through us, as we offer the cosmos to God and God to the cosmos. It was because of us, because of our failings, because of our refusal, that “the creation was subjected to futility unwillingly” (Romans 8:20), and now languishes in “bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:21) and is even now “groaning” (Romans 8:22). This whole vast cosmos is in need of renewal, of revival, of reconciliation.

But the Word, the True Light, has penetrated the cosmos and taken on a name, the name of Jesus Christ. And he – the Word become flesh, the True Light of God made a human life – promises that there's a way that the whole cosmos can get the life and light it needs. How? He says that the Bread of God's got to descend from heaven to give the cosmos life (John 6:33). And this Bread of Life, distributed everywhere for the life of the cosmos, can be nothing less than the flesh of Jesus Christ himself (John 6:51). Just so, the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the cross, is the means of reconciling not just the human race, but all things anywhere in the cosmos – “for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:19-20). This is what he died to give.

And so now here we are. And we say that on our altar, by his grace, there will soon be that flesh of Christ and that blood of Christ – the bread-flesh that feeds the cosmos with life, the blood-wine that reconciles the cosmos into a new peace – so that here the True Light who is making all things new will shine in our midst. God made a beautiful cosmos, but it's hurting, it's groaning, it's in bondage to decay, and so when we pray the prayers that offer the Life of the World back to God from the altar, we remember the entire creation, the whole universe, and lovingly lead it back to God in Christ, presenting it in Christ's hands as our offering.1

God made a beautiful cosmos, and you're part of it. When you receive this bread and cup, this flesh and blood, this revival and reconciliation, you receive him not only for yourself and your individual needs, nor even only for the spiritual health of this local church; but if you partake, then – in some mysterious and mystical way that I sure don't understand – you are receiving God on behalf of each and every other thing that exists anywhere. In some way, your mouth is the mouth of the universe, receiving its God within it, furthering the communion of the cosmos within itself in and through Christ who is its True Light and its True Life. As we offer the universe up to God, we receive God for the universe. That's why one theologian said that “the world was created as... the material of one all-embracing eucharist, and man was created as the priest of this cosmic sacrament.”2

When you receive this with thanksgiving, distant galaxies are thankful through you, the mountains and rivers are thankful through you, the birds sing their praises through you, the lions roar with gratitude through you, the tiniest specks of life at the bottom of the sea swell with glory through you. And somehow, in some strange way, they are each and all brought closer to God their Creator, because you are the little universe that bridges the gap, when the flesh and blood of Christ pulse life through you to all creation, bridging all things into a more lively and harmonious communion. Trees and turtles, deserts and deer, oceans and eagles – all in communion through you, and through this offering, this blessing, receiving life and light that outshines all the groaning.

So let's waste no more words. The forests and fields are waiting, the clouds in the sky are waiting, the core of the earth, the sunlight, the planets with their moons, the asteroids and comets, stars and quasars, nebulae and black holes are all waiting. For the life of the world, for the communion of the cosmos, let us give and receive no less than the True Light and Life of all, “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). Let us be the mouths the universe needs, for thanking and for eating and drinking glory. Oh, come to the Light!

1  Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy (St. Vladmir's Seminary Press, 1982 [1963]), 36.

2  Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy (St. Vladmir's Seminary Press, 1982 [1963]), 15.

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