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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 inherentsacrality, 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
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