Dear Fr. Richard,
It’s been a full 7 years since I met you face-to-face in Albuquerque. You’ve done so many interviews that this may not ring a bell, but you were in fine form that day. Your five-minute description of contemplation is GOLD:
Anyway, it came to my attention that in a Q&A with you a while back, a participant used me as an example of someone who opposed your take on the Universal Christ without any context. Knowing you, it would not have ruffled your spirit, but it’s bugged me that comments I made would be used that way. So here’s what I actually said, in context, also during a Q&A:
Question: “What do you think of Fr. Richard’s take on the Universal Christ?”
My response (paraphrased but accurate):
Before I comment on that, let me say first that I love Fr. Richard. He is a man of God, full of love, with a Christlike character that I could not hope to attain in three lifetimes. He oozes the love of Christ and if you ever get a chance, ask him for a hug and fall into his arms.When it comes to his teaching on the Universal Christ, it’s important to understand the purpose behind the theology. He’s emphasizing the truth that Christ circumscribes and fills the cosmos so that all are included in his love. This is about inclusion and indwelling. As the Trisagion prayer says, “The Spirit of Truth is everywhere present and fills all things.”Second, it’s important to understand that he has not abandoned the person of Jesus or the centrality of the Cross. He once wrote that without the Cross, our suffering would be meaningless. So those who use Fr. Richard’s teaching to imply that the life and death and resurrection of Jesus–or even his existence–are passe or optional are misrepresenting him.Finally, I differ very little with Fr. Richard, but while he emphasizes the distinction between Jesus and the Christ (and there is one), I emphasize the indivisible identity of the one prosopon, following 1 John’s insistence that “Jesus is the Christ.” While that conversation is important and we may disagree in emphasis, it’s also not a cause to break fellowship.
So you can imagine my disappointment when someone distills my love for you and appreciation of you as unnuanced opposition. The reality is that I hear you channeling Rahner, but even more so, St. Maximos the Confessor.
Anyway, I apologize for any awkwardness that I caused, even indirectly, and continue to relish in the good fruit of your ministry. I’ve hesitated to write about this for a few years, but I thought since I was having a ‘gratitude attack’ for you today, I wanted to get it off my chest.
Much love, and I am praying for you,
Fr. Richard’s kind response:
How kind that you would even bother!
We are not at all at odds but just framing it differently.
You are a loving and true pastor about the things that matter!
Keep doing good! Thank you!
Keep doing good! Thank you!
Big love and hug,