All things were created through and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Colossians 1: 15-19

From his lifetime to the fifth century, the understanding of Jesus underwent a radical transformation. Early in the first century, Jesus was the son of a carpenter and the leader of a small band of religious zealots; by the fifth century, Jesus had become the organizing principle of the cosmos, the key to understanding reality, and the answer to the mystery of existence. The human longing for order had found its end in Jesus, the Logos incarnate, the reason and structure of the cosmos. The intellectual and spiritual implications of this sense of the Cosmic Christ are still felt today. Indeed, the eminent twentieth-century philosopher Alfred North Whitehead has suggested that the scientific worldview, now so deeply embedded into western consciousness, has its roots in the theology of fifth-century Christians.
All things were created through and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Colossians 1: 15-19

From his lifetime to the fifth century, the understanding of Jesus underwent a radical transformation. Early in the first century, Jesus was the son of a carpenter and the leader of a small band of religious zealots; by the fifth century, Jesus had become the organizing principle of the cosmos, the key to understanding reality, and the answer to the mystery of existence. The human longing for order had found its end in Jesus, the Logos incarnate, the reason and structure of the cosmos. The intellectual and spiritual implications of this sense of the Cosmic Christ are still felt today. Indeed, the eminent twentieth-century philosopher Alfred North Whitehead has suggested that the scientific worldview, now so deeply embedded into western consciousness, has its roots in the theology of fifth-century Christians.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Christ Pantocrator

The image of Christ Pantocrator - inscribed with the term "The Being" - is, according to the Byzantine iconographic program, placed in the dome of the church. It speaks of Christ the creator and sustainer of the cosmos. In Christ the cosmos has its reason for being, its form and fulfillment.

Heiko Schlieper (1931-).
St. George the Victory Bearer Ukrainian Catholic Church
c. 1994
Paint on dry plaster
PMA: J99.1981
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta


Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights. Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise ye the Lord from the earth,
ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire
and hail; snow, and vapours …Mountains, and all hills; fruit trees, and all cedars: Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl: Kings of the earth, and all people.

Psalm 148

The heart of cosmic Christianity, a golden strand of thought and practice, is focused on the glory and wonder of creation and the deep mystery of the divine. It is expressed in the Eastern Christian iconographic program. In the icon of Psalm 148 we see all creation rise up in praise of "the Lord." Creation is shown in all its youthful freshness, in a spring-time of life when the sacrality of the cosmos was vivid. An echo of this sensibility is present in the icon of the Resurrection where we see Eve an Read More
Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights. Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise ye the Lord from the earth,
ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire
and hail; snow, and vapours …Mountains, and all hills; fruit trees, and all cedars: Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl: Kings of the earth, and all people.

Psalm 148

The heart of cosmic Christianity, a golden strand of thought and practice, is focused on the glory and wonder of creation and the deep mystery of the divine. It is expressed in the Eastern Christian iconographic program. In the icon of Psalm 148 we see all creation rise up in praise of "the Lord." Creation is shown in all its youthful freshness, in a spring-time of life when the sacrality of the cosmos was vivid. An echo of this sensibility is present in the icon of the Resurrection where we see Eve and Adam called forth from the pit of darkness and death. Christ, this tradition teaches, redeems human nature. We also meet Adam and Eve in the icon of the River of Fire where they are shown at the feet of the Saviour in Paradise. In the icon of Pentecost, depicting the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, a personification of the cosmos is shown emerging from darkness and crowned with life.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Pentecost

The crowned figure emerging from the darkness at the base of the icon is the personification of the cosmos. All creation has its origin and is illumined by the spirit of God.

Heiko Schlieper
c. 1998
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta


Christ is the centre where all lines converge.

Maximus the Confessor, Mystagogia

Christ is the new Adam, the Firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15), and the sanctification of the world ultimately flows from the unity of the created order. The Greek Fathers of the Church called this state of being in which such unity is expressed, apokatastasis, the restoration of all things. Maximus the Confessor (c.580-662) pondered this restoration of all things in unity. In Orthodox iconography this teaching becomes crystal clear. In Byzantine Church architecture we see the icon of the Pantocrator high in the dome of the temple where it can be seen as the centre, holding together the whole of the cosmos that the temple typifies. The Pantocrator is not, as so many have interpreted it, the judge and ruler of creation. Rather, the image of the Cosmic Christ calls the faithful to bind together all that is in creation, to bring unity, order, and cosmos out of chaos through the integrity of being, which makes life whole despite all the vagaries and diminution of history.
Christ is the centre where all lines converge.

Maximus the Confessor, Mystagogia

Christ is the new Adam, the Firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15), and the sanctification of the world ultimately flows from the unity of the created order. The Greek Fathers of the Church called this state of being in which such unity is expressed, apokatastasis, the restoration of all things. Maximus the Confessor (c.580-662) pondered this restoration of all things in unity. In Orthodox iconography this teaching becomes crystal clear. In Byzantine Church architecture we see the icon of the Pantocrator high in the dome of the temple where it can be seen as the centre, holding together the whole of the cosmos that the temple typifies. The Pantocrator is not, as so many have interpreted it, the judge and ruler of creation. Rather, the image of the Cosmic Christ calls the faithful to bind together all that is in creation, to bring unity, order, and cosmos out of chaos through the integrity of being, which makes life whole despite all the vagaries and diminution of history.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Saint George the Victory - Bearer Ukrainian Catholic Church

The canonical Byzantine iconographic program in this church speaks of creation as grace filled, and history, including its terrors, as illumined by the grace of God.

Canadian Museum of Civilization Colelction

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Collection


O Christ, the Wisdom and Power of God, that creates and sustains all things.

Canon for the Feast of the Dormition

The religious concept of creation flows from a sense of wonder at the existence of the universe and our place in it. The scientific concept of creation encompasses no less a sense of wonder; we are awed by the ultimate simplicity and power of the creativity in physical nature - and by its beauty on all scales.

George Smoot, Wrinkles in Time

A Christian Orthodox archbishop, in conversation with the eminent scientist Stephen Hawking, asked if there was any reasonable theory about non-barionic dark matter. A number of scientists have speculated that such matter is the only way of explaining some of the tensions in the cosmos that seem to hold the universe together. Stephen Hawking looked up at the Orthodox monk and responded, "You are an Eastern Orthodox monk so you must know the meaning of mystery." For the monk and for Hawking, there is mystery at the very centre of the cosmos. For the Christian East, this mystery is palpable and a sour Read More
O Christ, the Wisdom and Power of God, that creates and sustains all things.

Canon for the Feast of the Dormition

The religious concept of creation flows from a sense of wonder at the existence of the universe and our place in it. The scientific concept of creation encompasses no less a sense of wonder; we are awed by the ultimate simplicity and power of the creativity in physical nature - and by its beauty on all scales.

George Smoot, Wrinkles in Time

A Christian Orthodox archbishop, in conversation with the eminent scientist Stephen Hawking, asked if there was any reasonable theory about non-barionic dark matter. A number of scientists have speculated that such matter is the only way of explaining some of the tensions in the cosmos that seem to hold the universe together. Stephen Hawking looked up at the Orthodox monk and responded, "You are an Eastern Orthodox monk so you must know the meaning of mystery." For the monk and for Hawking, there is mystery at the very centre of the cosmos. For the Christian East, this mystery is palpable and a source of wonder and comfort.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Earth as It Appears from Space

The vision of the Cosmic Christ has always incorporated a wonder in the majesty and illimitable creativity of the universe. Scientific endeavors have in many ways deepened our appreciation for the imaginative energies which can create the sprawling grandeur of the galaxy and the delicate beauty of a developing baby.

The Provincial Museum of Alberta

Photograph
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Define “cosmic Christianity”, give examples of its manifestation, and describe its relationship to modern thought

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