Corporate Personhood: An Essential Spiritual Reality

July 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Corporate Personhood.  It’s basic to Judaeo-Christian heritage, though neither religion uses that term.  Not only is it basic to how ancient Hebrews viewed themselves, but it profoundly grounds Christian experience as inextricably corporate:  a body of believers in a mystical unity so profound, of such depth that I think it reaches into silence.  For it strikes one dumb – in Awe. Or comes to fruition in prayer, in poetry, in actions of self-giving and the gift of self-transcendance.  To seeing, as Paul did, Christ within (oneself and others) and all of us in Fellowship – in Him.

The Eucharist is precisely the Sacrament of this Mystery.  Whose beginnings can be traced back to Genesis.  As John’s Gospel makes clear.

Corporate Personhood.  We see it first in Jacob.  The man who wrestled with God. The man whose name was thereafter changed to Israel.  A very human man, a trickster who was later tricked again and again.  A man who had to flee his homeland (as later Moses had to flee) in fear of his life.  A man who (like Moses) met God alone in the wilderness.   Was promised God would be with him.

Jacob, Israel, stands for both a person and A People:  Corporate Personhood.  To speak of Israel is to recall Jacob as Father of a people and as this People’s We Identity – in terms of both nation and religion.

The Temple, so important to Israel’s public worship, so mourned by the Hebrews in exile, that when they were exiled (and deprived of Temple worship) they arrived at a deeper understanding of Yahweh as present in His word, His Torah.   Yahweh:  A God who called.  Who promised.  Who traveled with His People.  Who heard their cries and supplications.   Who inspired Prophets and Psalmist alike, whose actions were alive in history.  A God who Spoke.  A Living God.  A Personal Holy Presence.

It was this Presence in Jesus:  God With Us.

John’s Gospel, which so profoundly presents this Mystery of Corporate Personhood flowing from Christ, speaks early on of Jacob, of the ladder stretched between heaven and earth, what Jacob termed the Gate of Heaven, and Jesus promises his disciples they will see more than Jacob did.  And John’s Gospel does not disappoint.

When Paul speaks of Mystical Body he is speaking of Corporate Personhood.  Of the Fellowship with each other in Christ, in the Trinity – a mutual sharing of Divine Life.

In Christianity the concept of Temple (so revered, longed for, loved) was replaced by Christ Himself.  Christ in each believer.  Christ in the Body of Believers.  Christ, The Word.  Christ shared out.  Paul understood this so well. Both mystically and practically.

There is so much more one could say about this….  Let us just dwell with it.

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