Jesus as Logos, or Cosmic Christ (Part 2)

“In the beginning was the Logos,” the disciple John wrote in his Gospel, referring to Jesus Christ.  On Monday, we considered the possible influences the philosopher Philo’s multipart definition of “Logos” might have had on John.  Now I wish to center in on one of those definitions in particular, and that is the Logos as the Universal Bond, as this is the definition I find most intriguing when applied to Jesus.

Logos200

Pietro di Pucci da Orvieto, “Universe Supported by God with the Signs of the Planets,” Campo Santo, Pisa, Italy

“The Logos of the living God is the bond of everything,” Philo wrote, “holding all things together and binding all the parts, and prevents them from being dissolved and separated … the Logos, which connects together and fastens every thing, is peculiarly full itself of itself, having no need whatever of any thing beyond” (De Profugis; Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit 188).

According to Philo, the Logos holds together all the parts of the world and all the parts of the body.  Not only that, he is entirely non-contingent and self-sufficient.  I see echoes of this idea in Colossians 1:17, in which Paul writes of Jesus, “He is before all things, and by him all things consist [synistemi].”  This “universal bond” is both literal and figurative:  Jesus moves the atoms that make up the universe and maintains the systems that make up all living bodies.  But also, by Jesus, all things are made into a cosmic system, united in harmony, and made whole.

Dante, in his epic poem Paradiso, beautifully articulates the concept of Logos.  His character has traveled through eight heavenly spheres on his way toward God, and now he enters the Primum Mobile, the last sphere of the physical universe.  His guide, Beatrice, who represents theology, explains the scene before him:

“The nature of the universe, which holds the center still and moves all else around it, / begins here as if from its turning-post. / This heaven has no other where than this: / the mind of God, in which are kindled both / the love that turns it and the force it rains. / As in a circle, light and love enclose it, / as it surrounds the rest—and that enclosing, / only He who encloses understands.” (Canto 27, lines 106-114)

… Wow.  The love of Jesus turns the spheres and grounds the universe.  The love of Jesus encloses all.

In the last four cantos, Dante finally enters the Empyrean (the outermost part of Heaven, according to Dante’s cosmology).  Here he sees God, who appears as three equally large circles occupying the same space, in the center of which stands the human form of Jesus Christ.  As Dante contemplates the mystery of the Trinity and of Jesus’ dual nature, God graciously aligns Dante’s heart, mind, and soul to his own, and Dante is able to comprehend these mysteries for the first time and to experience the fullness of God’s glory.  He still struggles to describe this experience to his readers, though:

“In its [the Eternal Light’s] profundity I saw—ingathered / and bound by love into one single volume– / what, in the universe, seems separate, scattered: / substances, accidents, and dispositions / as if conjoined—in such a way that what / I tell is only rudimentary. / … / Here force failed my high fantasy; but my / desire and will were moved already—like / a wheel revolving uniformly—by / the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.” (Canto 33, lines 85-90, 142-145)

Gustave Dore Paradiso illustration

Gustave Dore, “The Empyrean” (from his illustrations to The Divine Comedy), 19th century.

Jesus, as Logos, binds together the universe like a book, containing everything within the two covers of his love.  Not only humanity, but all of creation, is connected in a cosmic way by the One who turns the wheel, who binds the book.  God’s creation is broken and scattered now, but Christ will bind us together again, as he restores us and all of creation to himself, bringing the cosmos once again into supreme harmony with its Creator.  No longer will we be alienated from God; rather, through the Logos, we will finally be able to experience pure being, since Christ enables men to “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

In his book The Illustrated Jesus Through the Centuries, Orthodox Christian scholar Jaroslav Pelikan writes that man’s sin causes a cosmic misalignment, and that Jesus, in order to realign the cosmos with Reason (that is, with himself), had to become the incarnation of the Logos:

“Because sin was a turning of the eyes away from God and from the Logos, sinners were threatened with falling back into the abyss of nonbeing out of which the creating action of the Logos had called them. … This total reversal of the created metaphysical polarity between being and nonbeing was the meaning of the fall.  The fall both of humanity and of the world was a loss of the tenuous hold on true being and therefore a relapse into the abyss.” (67, 70)

Canterbury Psalter

Canterbury Psalter, Scenes from Genesis, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Pelikan also writes of the continuity Jesus, as Logos, has provided throughout redemption history, from creation to salvation, with an end goal of restoring the entire cosmos to himself.  “The original creation in the image of God had been wrought about through the Logos,” Pelikan says, “and would now achieve not only restoration but consummation and perfection through the same Logos:  his incarnation would achieve our deification.  And the whole cosmos would have its proper share in that consummation” (70).

What are your thoughts about Jesus being THE Universal Bond?  What does that even mean to you?  I’m also interested in seeing links to images that you feel well illustrate the concept of Jesus as Logos, as it can be a difficult concept to illustrate.

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