Christmas is Not Just for Christians–Aquinas and Julian on Humanity’s Deification

Recently, Rabbi Michael Lerner offered a reminder that “Hanukkah is not just for Jews.”  I agree.  Great feast days of all the world’s religions invariably speak to humanity’s deepest longings. 

“Baptism” Plaque by Ullrrich Javier Lemus, in The Stations of the Cosmic Christ.

It follows that Christmas is not just for Christians.  The deeper lessons of the Christmas story are archetypal and can speak deeply to all human beings.

Christmas reminds us of our divinity.  Aquinas tells us that Christ

teaches the dignity of human nature….and the full participation in Divinity, which is truly humanity’s happiness and the goal of human life. When Matthew’s gospel says ‘Behold a voice speaking from heaven, ‘This is my son’ notice that baptism not only makes one spiritual but makes one the child of God (John 1:12): He gave them the power to become children of God.’

The mystery of Christ’s human nature is “the mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3:16).  The saints have their name from divine adoption (1 John 3)”…. See what sort of charity God the Father has given us. So that we are called the children of God and that is what we are….Divine virtue gives deification itself, that is, participation the Godhead which is through grace.

Christ restores us as images of God and mirrors of God and is a “way directing us to God.”

“We are all drops in the limitless ocean of [God’s] mercy” – Mahatma Gandhi. Photographer unknown; on Wikimedia Commons.

“The Holy Spirit proceeds as the love of the primal goodness whereby the Creator loves the Godhead and every creature.” Every creature is the object of God’s love.

The beautiful term, “primal goodness” as well as “original goodness” that Aquinas repeats several times in his writings is a powerful statement born of Genesis 1 that talks about creation and cosmology and all of nature as “good” and “very good” even after humans come aboard. 

The goodness of God is so great that, according to Aquinas, “the goodness of God cannot be expressed and if it is expressed, still it is expressed imperfectly.  And so Jeremiah says: ‘Ah, ah, ah, I don’t know how to speak.’” God’s goodness overwhelms us.  Says Aquinas: “Through the Incarnation we are led to enjoy goodness perfectly.”

This amazing teaching from Thomas Aquinas opens the door to the deep wisdom of Julian of Norwich because her theology can be summarized as a veritable treatise on goodness.  Julian has an immense amount to say about goodness and thereby demonstrates the point Aquinas is making, namely that the Incarnation “leads us to enjoy goodness perfectly.”

In his weekly live-streamed catechesis, Pope Francis affirms the unconditional love, blessing, and goodness of our Father/Mother God. Posted to YouTube by ROME REPORTS in English, 12/2/2020.

To be godlike is to be on the search for goodness and for Julian God is “goodness itself” and “has revealed his goodness with such abundance and plenitude.”  We live in a world abundant and overflowing with goodness—and “the first good thing is the goodness of nature.”

Julian identifies divinity with goodness itself when she declares that “God is all that is good.”

It follows from Julian’s and Aquinas’s teachings that Advent is a time for anticipating our deeper awakening toward goodness and Christmas is a birth of renewed consciousness of the divine goodness all about us.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 100, 157-162;

Also see Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. xxxvi, 22f. 

Also Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus, Stations of the Cosmic Christ.​​

Banner Image: Kings from the East came to honor the Christ child: “The Three Wise Men” Detail from: “Mary and Child, surrounded by angels”, mosaic by the “Master of Sant’Apollinare,” c. 526 AD, at the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy. Photo by Nina Aldin Thune on Wikimedia Commons

How do Aquinas’s teachings on goodness and the Incarnation and Julian’s also speak to you?  To our culture at this time?  And to teachings from other spiritual traditions that you know or practice?

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.

Resurrection Logic: How Jesus’ First Followers Believed God Raised Him from the Dead

Bruce Chilton investigates the Easter event of Jesus in Resurrection Logic. He undertakes his close reading of the New Testament texts without privileging the exact nature of the resurrection, but rather begins by situating his study of the resurrection in the context of Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, and Syrian conceptions of the afterlife. He then identifies Jewish monotheistic affirmations of bodily resurrection in the Second Temple period as the most immediate context for early Christian claims. Chilton surveys first-generation accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and finds a pluriform–and even at times seemingly contradictory–range of testimony from Jesus’ first followers. This diversity, as Chilton demonstrates, prompted early Christianity to interpret the resurrection traditions by means of prophecy and coordinated narrative.

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