Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Abi and Perichoretic cHesed

You've listened to me talk for quite a while now about Dr. C. Baxter Kruger. I just listened to the recordings from the North Carolina Open Table Conference (from Labor Day weekend) ... and he said that it has been his goal for the last few decades to make the Greek word perichoresis a household word. Well, I have had a similar goal these past 15 years -- to make the Hebrew term cHesed a household word.

Baxter defines perichoresis basically as mutual indwelling without loss of identity. He goes on to say that perichoresis is the reality of the interpenetrating relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are three who have always been one -- they are "in" each other without becoming each other.  They are so together that they can only be described as One.  The Trinity -- three who are one.

From all eternity they have dwelt together -- and together they dreamed of sharing the wonder of their life -- which Baxter calls The Great Dance -- together with us...even before the Cosmos was created!

The great Good News is that, after all the years of waiting and wading through the chaos of human blindness and darkness brought on by The Fall, in the fullness of time, they accomplished their dream of our adoption in and through the Incarnation of Jesus, the Father's eternal Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through his death, burial, resurrection and ascension, Jesus has gathered all of humanity -- indeed, the entire Creation -- and brought us with him into their relationship. We are in Jesus -- and they are in us.  Done deal.

Many people do not yet know this Good News.  This does not change the Reality, however!

Baxter suggests that the relationship that is perichoresis is one of altruism -- other-centered, self-giving, mutual submission.  But I believe that it is in describing the actions of this relationship that the beautiful concept of cHesed serves more fully.

Most often translated as loving-kindness or mercy, I define cHesed (following Dr. Mont Smith) as looking out for the best interest of the other, according to the covenant. While that may sound like altruism, it is a much richer concept.  cHesed was too rich for just a single Greek word...and so the Septuagint and the New Testament use a variety of words to describe the covenant keeping attitudes and actions of cHesed -- love (agape) as deliberate affection that submits to the need of the other, grace (charis) as unmerited favor that serves the best interest of the other, and mercy (eleos) as kindness mutually owed that leads the other toward success.  And that not all there is to this beautiful concept....

Who knew that they would merge, these two foundational words!?!  Below is crude drawing of what is known as the Trinity Knot.  I have colored and labeled it to help me get my brain around this ... and perhaps help you see what I'm talking about more clearly.

I can't tell you the number of different diagrams I've played with these many years to try to capture the essence of cHesed. Now that my mind has been reconnected with the Good News of the Blessed Trinity through the beauty of perichoresis, it was obvious where cHesed fit.  Thank you, Baxter!

We will have plenty more to unpack, don't worry!  But this weary abbess is finished for today....

Be blessed ...

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