"Send out Your light and Your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling." Psalm 43:3

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Williams: 'Around him the whole universe reorganizes itself'

(this post is part 3 of a series - part 1,  part 2)

A final reflection on and  excerpt from Rowan Williams’ book The Dwelling of the Light: Praying with Icons of Christ.

As has been seen, Adam and Eve figure prominently in the icon of the resurrection.  Of course, Adam and Eve, and the opening chapters of Genesis, have become increasingly controversial in the modern era, with its scientific advances and theories about the origins of life and so forth.  I recall a conversation I had with a friend, in which he made a comment about doubting whether the doctrine of the Fall made any sense in light of theories about the biological evolution of humanity.  In his words, “What was there for us to fall from?”  I found a reasonable answer to that question provided by John Polkinghorne (the esteemed quantum physicist and Anglican priest).  He was actually responding to the question, ‘do you think Adam and Eve actually existed?’ which he answered thusly (I’m paraphrasing him): If we accept that there was a point in time when a man and a woman became spiritually conscious, that is, aware of God, then it is perfectly reasonable to assert that ‘Adam and Eve’ existed.  And it is also sadly probable that these first true humans were also the first to consciously turn away from God. 

In the excerpt below, Williams echoes this understanding of the Genesis narrative.  “Adam and Eve stand for wherever it is in the human story that fear and refusal of God began”.  And the good news, the gospel, is that Christ has been there, and has redeemed that moment.  But it is not only this particular fall that is redeemed, it is the Fall, the curse under which all of humanity and all of creation has groaned, the brokenness that afflicts our world.  All is bound up and brought together in wholeness by the victorious work of God in the resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, “the one in whose company we come fully to life.”

Peace, and happy Eastertide!
“What Christ does and suffers affects all things, all areas of human experience and so all aspects of human relation, including relation with what is not human.  Around him the whole universe reorganizes itself, just as human history reorganizes itself around this new centre which is at the same time the ancient and unchangeable centre of God’s glory.  Once again, the Jesus who lived and died as a particular human being ‘opens out’ upon the glory of God.  And that glory is here visually brought down into the middle of the realm of death so that death may be swallowed up.
“As his hand grasps the hands of Adam and Eve, Jesus goes back to embrace the first imaginable moment of rebellion and false direction in human life – as in the icons and liturgy of the transfiguration we are reminded that he goes fully into the depths of human agony.  He reaches back to and beyond where human memory begins: ‘Adam and Eve’ stand for wherever it is in the human story that fear and refusal of God began – not a moment we can date in ordinary history, any more than we can date in the history of each one of us where we began to forget God.  But we are always dealing with the after-effects of that moment, both as a human race and as particular persons.  The icon declares that wherever that lost moment is or was, Christ has been there, to implant the possibility, never destroyed, of another turning, another future; in his resurrection, he brings all those possibilities to reality. 
“Looking at this, then, we can first of all be sure that Christ has chosen to accompany us from the first point at which we began to lose our faithfulness to God; that he has been there at the roots of whatever sin and self-destructiveness we have been involved in; and that he has already sown in us the seeds that will come to new life.  How they do depends on whether we are willing to put our trust in him as the one in whose company we come fully to life.”
~ Rowan Williams, The Dwelling of the Light

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