Jesus Mosaic (based on a Byzantine icon, made up of more than 1,000 different images of Jesus)   
from the film The God Who Wasn't There (2005)  

Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

In the Beginning

The Great Chain of Being

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Of Christ’s fullness, we all have a share.
  — John 1:16, Colossians 2:9-10

The Great Chain of Being was the medieval metaphor for ecology before we spoke of ecosystems! This was the philosophical/theological attempt to speak of the circle of life, the interconnectedness of all things on the level of pure “Being.” If God is Being Itself (Deus est Ens), then the “Great Chain” became a way of teaching and preserving the inherent dignity of all things that participate in that Divine Being in various ways. It was not intended to teach hierarchy, as much as inherent sacrality, continuity, and communality. This was the Biblical pleroma or fullness (Genesis 2:1, Ephesians 1:23).

Such a graphic metaphor held all things together in an enchanted universe. To stop recognizing the “image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26) in any one link of the chain was to allow the entire coherence to fall apart! It would soon become a disenchanted universe. If we could not see the sacred in nature and creatures, we soon would not see it in ourselves, and finally we would not be able to see it at all (modern atheism). “Uni-verse” means to turn around one thing. The Great Chain of Being resolved the early philosophical problem of “the one and the many” to allow us to live coherently inside of one shared universe of meaning. This is the way they saw it:

Link 1 – The firmament/Earth/minerals within the Earth

Link 2 – The waters upon the Earth (snow, ice, water, steam, mist)

Link 3 – The plants, trees, flowers, and foods that grow upon the Earth

Link 4 – The living animals on the Earth, in the skies, and in the waters

Link 5 – The human species, capable of reflecting on all the other links

Link 6 – The world of angels, and the perfect communion of those who have passed over

Link 7 – The Divine Mystery Itself

From insert in A New Cosmology: Nature as the First Bible
(CD, MP3 download)

Gateway to Silence:
God is all in all


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