I have another another word to try to learn about more deeply, the way I did more than 30 years ago with “subsidiarity,” before driving my friends nuts over it.
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus declares, “The Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
Charles Williams stated that the master idea of Christianity is “coinherence,” mutual indwelling. If you want to see this idea concretely displayed, look to the pages of the Book of Kells, that masterpiece of early Christian illumination. Lines interwoven, designs turning in and around on each other, plays of plants, animals, planets, human beings, angels, and saints. The Germans call it Ineinander (one in the other).
How do we identify ourselves? Almost exclusively through the naming of relationships: we are sons, brothers, daughters, mothers, fathers, members of organizations, members of the Church, etc. We might want to be alone, but no one and nothing is finally an island. Coinherence is indeed the name of the game, at all levels of reality.
And God—the ultimate reality—is a family of coinherent relations, each marked by the capacity for self-emptying. Though Father and Son are really distinct, they are utterly implicated in each other by a mutual act of love.
The impossibly good news is that Jesus and the Father have invited us to enter fully into their divine coinherence. The love between the Father and the Son—which is called “the Holy Spirit”—can be participated in.
I suspect that there’s a simpler way to say it, just as I keep saying the Church should go back to “one in being with the Father” in the Nicene Creed, rather than the new phrase adopted in 2011 — “consubstantial with the Father” — which, as much as I love and respect Latin-derived terms, was not a good move.
But while there may be better words for getting the concept across, there’s nothing simple about the idea itself. I really need to understand it better.
But it appeals to me greatly so far, “at all levels of reality” as the bishop says, for a wide variety of reasons, including:
- I believe salvation (if even that is the right term, given the way so many use it), is achieved with and through others. It’s not about the I; it’s about the we. (Which is another problem with the new version of the Creed). It’s why there’s a Church. It’s why there are families. It’s why there is such a thing as love.
- I believe in communitarianism, and most assuredly not libertarianism.
- I love John Donne’s most famous work, to which the bishop alludes.
- One of my favorite clichés is, “We’re all in this together.” I mean, if we must have clichés, and apparently we must.
- It’s a big reason I’m Catholic.
- It’s why I’ve confused so many people when they ask why I’m Catholic, and I refer them to the last sentence of Joyce’s masterpiece “The Dead.” But read the rest of it first. If it’s still not clear, and I admit it may not be, I’ll try to explain further. Maybe I’ll work in “coinherence.”
- It’s why, back in my newsroom days, I used to talk about my dream of someday putting out a newspaper that is just one story that has everything that happened in it. Because it’s all connected, and there’s something deeply artificial about presenting the news as separate stories with different headlines. Of course, it might take a year — or at least a week — to write such a “daily” newspaper, but it would be worth it, if the laws of space and time could be suspended.
Now I realize that, except for the Donne reference, the bishop didn’t say exactly any of those things, and I may be mistaking the meaning of coinherence entirely. But it made me think of all those things, and I like thinking about those things.
And I’m just getting started with trying to understand it…