The Cornerstone That Binds Two Into One

LTC-brjohn-clean

O King of the Gentiles, 
and the Desired of all, 
You are the Cornerstone that binds two into one. 
Come, and save us whom You fashioned out of clay.
O Antiphon, December 22

The one for whom we wait, with growing expectation, is the “Desired of all.” God does not send Jesus for some, or even for many, but for all. Jesus’ teaching makes it very clear that God’s rain falls both on the just and the unjust (Mt. 5:45). How much more is God’s greatest gift meant for each person and for all members of the human race for all time.

To receive and to come to know the Lord Jesus is to realize the truth that what is given for one is a gift for all. “I” am not set apart or above by faith but rather brought into the shared and common life that is the life of God. “You are the cornerstone that binds two into one.” To receive the life of God is to be bound to the life of the others. It is to know that despite all evidence to the contrary, we are one body. When we pray, we pray as part of a whole. When we act we act on behalf of all.

There is a striking paradox in aspects of our current political discourse. We hear some public ally asserting the importance of respect for the freedom to practice the external and accidental aspects of the Christmas celebration on the one hand, while at the same time declaring that people of a different race, culture or belief “are not like us,” on the other. The Incarnation is nothing if it is not the revelation that the love of God is, in the words of Jan van Ruusbroec, “common to all.” The great mystery is that love which brings to its fullest expression the one that each of us has been uniquely created to be is the very same love for all persons, who have been, who are, and who will be.

Our life with others is always beset by an irresolvable tension: we need and want each other while, at the same time, we are constantly asserting our independence from each other and our existence over and against each other. In our most intimate relationships we are always experiencing the truth that we love and hate the same persons. Today we are reminded that it is only the love of God that is our deepest desire and longing that “binds two into one.” Over and over again we discover that our needs, emotions, and desires, in all their unpredictability and variability, can never fully bind us to another. Only a commitment born of the intimations of God’s universal love can do that.

The Antiphon today reminds us that to know the salvation of God in our personal and shared lives we must remain always mindful that God has formed us from the earth. We are dust and to dust we shall return. We, and each of our neighbors, come from a common and humble source, and we shall return there. It is our denial of this truth, of our own smallness, vulnerability, and mortality that leads us to lord it over and to fear others. In his speech to the members of the Roman Curia a couple of days ago, Pope Francis called on them to always remember their smallness. If we must be special, then there must be those who are not special. When they, in turn, assert their own specialness, we have the makings of suspicion, resentment and conflict. Pope Francis declares that we must each and all come to care for “our common home.” Because our home is common, there will be no home for any of us unless we awaken and realize that we are loved and saved “in common,” and that salvation can and will only come if we each receive it on behalf of us all.

The bosom of the Father is our own ground and our origin, in which we begin our life and our being. And out of our proper ground – that is, out of the Father and out of all that is living him – there shines an eternal brightness, which is the birth of the Son… The ordinary ground of our eternal image always remains in obscurity. But the incommensurable brightness which shines out from this ordinary ground reveals and brings forth the hiddenness of God. All those who are elevated above their creaturehood into a contemplative life are one with this divine brightness, and they are the brightness itself. They see and feel and find, by means of this divine light, that they are themselves the same ordinary ground out of which this brightness immeasurably shines forth without measure.

Jan van Ruusbroec, The Spiritual Espousals, c136-39; c145-51

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