The Wild Reed's 2015 Holy Week series concludes with a third excerpt from Cletus Wessel's 2003 book Jesus in the New Universe Story. (To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)
In this final excerpt, Wessels explores resurrection as a new depth of consciousness and connection.
In our childhood many of us were taught about the soul and the necessity to do good and avoid evil or we go to Hell. The concern was not particularly about helping others but about avoiding punishment. In our adolescence we began to recognize that there is a spiritual "part" of the self, the soul, and that that "part" of us is immortal. We knew that after death came a particular judgment that determined whether we went to Heaven or Hell (or possibly Purgatory). Our soul waited patiently for the end of the world, for the resurrection of our bodies, and for the final general judgment. Typically, adult Christians believed in immortality as the continuing, separate existence of the human soul after the death of the body to be followed by the final judgment and the resurrection of the body. Our view of resurrection was primarily individualistic rather than communal, focused on Heaven rather than Earth.
In an emerging universe, however, the resurrection of Jesus is symbolic of a qualitatively new moment or a deeper level of human consciousness flowing from the chaos of the crucifixion. This deeper level of consciousness enabled the Jesus community to experience the meaning of death as new life, a re-entry into the consciousness of God, and a communal call to new life for all peoples. But they could articulate this experience only in the cosmic story and the human words available to them. Their cosmology of a triple-decker universe with a Heaven above, the Earth below, and the place of the dead under the Earth was simply not adequate to express the new depth of experience. Remnants of this cosmology remain. . . . Limited in their ability to talk about and share their experience of the resurrection, the early Christians could describe it only in terms of the picture language of visions, appearances, and empty tombs, and later an eschatological second coming of Jesus. The Jewish-Christian cosmology was too narrow to embrace the reality of the new life of the risen Christ and it tended to limit the fullness of resurrection to Jesus alone and to the final parousia. We are now able to articulate the realization of a new sense of resurrection life for all humans and a new level of consciousness.
. . . [Throughout the two to three million years of human history there have been] moments when the human family, in whole or in part, seemed to reach a new level of consciousness and community life. Then came Jesus of Nazareth, a powerful peasant preacher and healer, who challenged the current Jewish holiness code and the leaders of the nation in the midst of a social crisis of Roman occupation. Because of his call for change and transformation he was finally crucified outside the city of Jerusalem. His preaching and his crucifixion became the catalyst out of which emerged a new level of consciousness and a deeper sense of faith. And now, in the twenty-first century, there is an opportunity for us to make a quantum leap into a new depth of consciousness. The chaos currently being experienced by many peoples and nations is indicative of a dissipative process about to transform our world. We have a new story of an emerging universe with which to integrate this transformation. . . . [This process] is indicative of a global resurrection. I will discuss the new level of consciousness first in terms of the dying and rising of the individual and second in terms of the dying and rising of the global human society, both of which are inseparable.
In an emerging universe, the individual at the moment of death re-enters the Earth from which he or she emerged. The physical body decays, as is the case with all members of Earth's living community, but the individual, the personhood, the conscious self enters the Consciousness of the Earth. Just as the conscious self during its lifetime manifests itself in the physical body, so in death the burial of the body symbolizes the return of the conscious self to the Consciousness of the Earth. Many people still see the Earth as a dead and lifeless thing and the heavens as the abode of God. But God is as much present in the living Earth as in the heavens. The Consciousness of the Earth is really the presence of God, and the re-entry of the self into the Earth is a re-entry into the life of God. In terms of the implicate order, dying is the process of moving from the external, explicate order to the internal, implicate order. In other words, we die to the explicate order and rise or return to the implicate order of what Bohm calls "wholeness," Zohar calls the "quantum vacuum,' Swimme calls the "all-nourishing abyss," and I call the "unconditional love of God."
After death there is no time; death and resurrection are simultaneous, and death and resurrection are simply two aspects of one event. With death and through resurrection the human person enters into the life of God where space and time no longer exist. Those who have died do not have to wait to be raised from the dead; they do not have to wait for a second coming of Christ. With death comes the fullness of life in God. What happens to the conscious self at the moment of new life that we call resurrection? This is a very difficult question, and one with many different answers. We cannot speak with any certainty on these matters, but we can speculate in terms of the concept of an emerging universe. I believe that the conscious self retains its individuality and receives a new form of life with a "body" free from its limitations. We often think of matter as the basic quality of a body, but we also know that matter can be transformed into energy and energy into light. It seems clear to me that, just as the make-up of the human body recycles completely about every seven years and yet the person remains the same, the make-up of the body may be composed of matter, energy, or light while retaining its identity. Just as the implicate order transcends space and time, so the resurrected person transcends space and time.
– Cletus Wessels, O.P.
Excerpted from Jesus in the New Universe Story
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
• The Two Entwined Events of the Easter Experience
• Resurrection in an Emerging Universe
• And What of Resurrection?
• Resurrection: Beyond Words, Dogmas and All Possible Theological Formulations
• The Resurrected Jesus . . .
• Jesus: The Revelation of Oneness
• A Discerning Balance Between Holiness and Wholeness: A Hallmark of the Resurrected Life
• A Girl Named Sara: "A Person of the Resurrection"
• The Passion of Christ (Part 11) – Jesus Appears to Mary
• The Passion of Christ (Part 12) – Jesus Appears to His Friends
• He is Risen!
• The Triumph of Love: An Easter Reflection (2007)
• Light of Christ (2008)
• Easter Reflections (2009)
• Easter: The Celebration of the Sacrament of Transformation
Image: Mario Duguay