Crucifixion and the Cosmic Christ

Bad theology can readily over-psychologize the Crucifixion. In the Gospels, the Good Friday event is placed in a cosmic context. Scholarship now tells us that the temple in Jesus’ time had two veils, and the front veil, which was on the outside of the building, was covered in pictures of the cosmos and the universe. When the Gospels declare that the veil of the temple was rent in two when Jesus died on the cross, this is an obvious statement that the Crucifixion was a cosmic event.

“The holy veil was torn in two.” Artist unknown.

Furthermore, the Temple was considered the center of the universe by the Jewish people. Liturgy, ritual and ceremony are often considered the center of the universe. It is also Jewish teaching that when there is injustice, the whole earth is off-kilter.

So again, we can easily overly psychologize and overly anthropocentrize the Crucifixion, when it is really about the brokenness of the universe that happens time and again whenever injustice triumphs. The Crucifixion speaks to the suffering of all beings—not just the suffering of Jesus.

The stories of the Crucifixion present the event as cosmic: Luke says the sun was eclipsed; Matthew says “the earth quaked; the rocks were split; the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy men rose from the dead”; Mark says that “darkness was over the whole land” and “the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom” when Jesus died (Lk 23:44; Mt: 27: 52-53; Mark: 15:39). 

“The Crucifixion” by Ullrrich Javier Lemus. From The Stations of the Cosmic Christ.

The Crucifixion is a cosmic teaching, since the Temple stood for the beauty and order of the cosmic structure of the universe. John’s Gospel develops a recurring theme of exaltation and crucifixion, glory and darkness, where the crucifixion is part of doxa or glory which tells us as the death of Christ is real but does not have the last word.

English mystic Julian of Norwich understood clearly the cosmic nature of the crucifixion event when she wrote: “The sky and the earth failed at the time of Christ’s dying because he too was part of nature.” And again, “all creatures of God’s creation that can suffer pain suffered with him….Those who were his friends suffered pain because they loved him.”

Compassion is like that, according to Julian: “I saw a great oneing between Christ and us because when he was in pain we were in pain.”

“Grief.” Photo by C Technical from Pexels

Buddhists remind us that all beings suffer. Suffering accompanies us wherever we find being. This same truth is borne witness by the crucifixion. Jesus suffered; he suffered to an extreme and he suffered unjustly, for he was a good person by any ethical yardstick.

So we are all reminded of pain and loss, suffering and death, limits and unfairness that life often brings our way. Suffering and grief are universal experiences.  Loss happens: “all is impermanent,” as the Buddhists say. No one is spared the suffering that life brings our way.

         How do we find meaning in the suffering?

Adapted from Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus, Stations of the Cosmic Christ (Unity Books, 2016), pp. 122-127.
And Matthew Fox, Bishop Marc Andrus, Ullrrich Javier Lemus and M.C. Richards, Stations of the Cosmic Christ Meditation Cards with Guide Booklet
Also adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic – and Beyond
And Brendan Doyle, Meditations with Julian of Norwich

Banner Image: The suffering of innocents as a result of human-caused climate change: Elk take refuge in the Bitterroot River during a wildfire at Sula, Montana. Photo by John McColgan, fire behavior analyst with the BLM’s Alaska Fire Service.

If the Cosmic Christ is present in all beings as light and as the image of God, and the Cosmic Christ has wounds, how can we assist the wounded among us?

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.

Stations of the Cosmic Christ
By Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus.

This is a book of meditations on the Cosmic Christ, accompanying the images of 16 wonderful clay tablets by Javier Ullrrich Lemus and M.C. Richards. Together, these images and meditations go far beyond the traditional Stations of the Cross to inspire a spirit awakening and understanding of the cosmic Christ Consciousness, Buddha consciousness, and consciousness of the image of God in all beings, so needed in our times.
“A divinely inspired book that must be read by every human being devoted to spiritual and global survival. It is cosmically brilliant.” — Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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.

Upcoming Events

Join Matthew Fox & Bruce Chilton as they explore the meaning of Easter in a 2-session Virtual Program: “Resurrection” hosted by Cameron Trimble. These sessions are recorded to watch at your convenience. Register HERE.


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6 thoughts on “Crucifixion and the Cosmic Christ”

  1. Avatar

    For many years I was very involved in actually sending healing and love to the people I worked on using Deep Muscle Therapy, then progressing to working through energy. This was very effective for the last 30-35 years of my life. I still send healing energy, not only to those who ask for help, but to all the suffering, wounded people, animals, and Mother Earth, so terribly ravaged and destroyed by climate change.
    I feel blessed that I can do this work while being at home. Not having a car has not stopped me from doing this healing work one bit, and even though I am pretty dependent on my friends and some family for simple things like shopping, etc., we love each other more through this sharing of our gifts. Caring for each other really works a hundredfold! Blessings and love to all!

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Vivian, I am very familiar with energy work; being a Reiki Master myself. It sounds as if you have had quite a ministry with your healing works. May the Great Healer bless you…

  2. Avatar

    Wonderful insights today, Matthew. Thank you for informing/reminding us that the crucifixion is to be seen in a cosmic perspective because all life, of any kind, was affected.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Norbert, To see a painting of the crucifixion from a “cosmic perspective” see: Salvador Dali’s “Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus)”

  3. Avatar
    Thomas Mansheim

    For the last 2-3 days I have not received the newsletter. I checked my junk folder. Nothing there. I tried the subscribe button on the web site to attempt to resubscribe, but it refuses my input! Any help or suggestions?

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