Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | January 13, 2008

Perichoresis

Perichoresis is the fundamental reality of the universe and the rediscovery of this reality is vital to the neo-reformation we are experiencing.trinity-glowing-thumbnail.jpg

First, what does it mean? Perichoresis is a Greek word that literally means to “dance around.” The imagery, I think, is of a kind of folk dance where people move in circles or squares, arms linked, in motion and rhythm.

The Church Fathers used the word to describe the inter-connected relationship of the persons of God. The Father, Son and Spirit are in and with each other, distinctly themselves yet so connected as to be one God (John 14:16-20.)

Perichoresis means that each individual never ceases to be uniquely himself while at the same time never ceasing to be in full and complete communion. The atoms of a molecule are distinct yet in connection. The organisms in an ecosystem are distinctly themselves yet connected with each other.

In a marriage two people become “one flesh.” Each never ceases to be a distinct individual yet they form together one new communion. Out of this communion flows love and life as new, distinct individuals are brought into being as the natural outflow of the unity and distinction that is the married couple.

This is why the early Christians chose the word that means “dance around” to describe this kind of union. As in a folk dance, several people, even many people, can join together in the whole without ceasing to be themselves.

Because this distinction with inseparable communion is the Triune God’s nature it is the fundamental organizing principle of life and relationship in his creation. It explains how the Father never forsakes the Son, even in the midst of the cross (Psalm 22:24.) It explains how humanity is connected to the Son (Acts 17:28, Col. 1:117) and how all are reconciled in him (Col 1:20.) It explains how the Father’s plan for humanity is adoption (Eph. 1:5.)

This is who God is and what he has created us to share in: a relationship of perfect union in which each of us and the Father, Son, and Spirit are uniquely ourselves and completely given to one another in trust and love.

Our notions of separation and independence from God, from others, and from the creation are simply wrong. The Holy Spirit is calling the church back to the reality of God’s perichoretic nature and the awesome glory of humanity’s inclusion in the dance of the Father, Son and Spirit.

The artwork with today’s post is an illustration by Stephen Leaver of the Triune God, showing the Son incarnate in human nature and in connection with the cosmos. Click on the picture for a larger view.

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