Currently I’m reading, among several other books, “The Universal Christ,” by Richard Rohr. In it, he distinguishes from the historical person of Jesus and the concept of Christ, which Rohr establishes as God incarnate in everything throughout all time — a creative, loving, cosmic outpouring of Spirit into material form. Thus, Jesus together with Christ gave us (and gives us) a window into God and a sacred awareness that God dwells within us too.
To open his book, Rohr quotes a 20th century English mystic, Caryll Houselander, who described a spiritual experience she had when recognizing Christ all around her. She wrote, “I saw too the reverence that everyone must have for a sinner; instead of condoning his sin, which is in reality his utmost sorrow, one must comfort Christ who is suffering in him. And this reverence must be paid even to those sinners whose souls seem to be dead, because it is Christ, who is the life of the soul, who is dead in them; they are His tombs, and Christ in the tomb is potentially the risen Christ…”
Wow. What a challenge. It’s far easier for me to succumb to all or nothing thinking, putting those I find difficult or mean into a “lost cause” category. But how do we comfort Christ who is suffering in another whose actions are loathsome and harmful? How do we reverence the sinner when their sins overwhelm us?
We can choose to remember their innate sacredness, however stomped out it appears to be, and hold space for it. We can remember their sin is their sorrow, even if they will never be able to articulate that in this lifetime. We can remember that though they may meet their death having never lived out their holiness, Christ will be liberated one way or another to love again.
It does not mean we accept bad behavior and irresponsibility from another. It doesn’t even mean to me that we hold out hope for one’s capacity to really change. Instead, perhaps it means we metaphorically light a candle of vigilance in the innermost chamber of our heart to acknowledge that this person too started out as an offspring of Divine Creation, though they seem to have forgotten who they really are. That “light” we offer to the Christ in them, locked in their tomb, to reverence the sacredness present still and the grace that is to come, though we may not experience it in this lifetime.
When we remember another’s sacredness, we bring to mind our own as well. And, with that, we might come to see the ways in which Christ longs for a fuller expression in us too.
This is the work between souls and Source. This is the work of aligning one’s true self with another’s true self, if only in Spirit. This is the work of prayer.
May you be inspired!