In the beginning was the One. One not in number, because there was no other “one” to make up two. One not in sequence, because there was no one and two to add and so make three, four, five and so on. But One as being beyond number, beyond otherness, beyond multiplicity. The absolute simple, the origin of all things beyond all things.
The One cannot be divided; yet within the One was mind and life. These are not divisions in the one, certainly not parts of that which is indivisible, but they can be differentiated. They were and are inalienable aspects of the One. There was no time when they were not. And so the One is Three: life, mind, and source beyond name. Not three in one so much as three and one, a paradox beyond mere number.
From the One have come the many. All things that are and were and will be have unfolded from the absolute simplicity of that divine Mind, which we have come to call Word or Logos. There is no time when that Word has not spoken , though mostly it has spoken in silence, through the firmament of the heavens, the motion of the stars and spheres, the turnings that give us day and night. God said, that is, his silent Word declared, “let there be light,” and of that light, all things that exist are refracted rays. And into all these things, even as they unfold from the Living Word, the mind of God, the Life of God imparts life: that Spirit of God hovering over the waters kisses life into the world, out of sheer, unbounded love. Of that love, we have come to know the One as loving Father, loving Word and loving Spirit.
We are not alone in knowing the One:
“The heavens declare the glory of God,Psalm 19
and the firmament shows his handiwork”
The movements of the planets in which the Psalmist discerned God’s words spoke to others than just the Jews. Buddhists speak of Amida Buddha as Inconceivable Light, Wisdom and Compassion, reading through the infinite lesser lights the wisdom of the true light beyond light which fills all things. The Greek Platonists, drawing a parallel between God and the Sun, saw him as the luminous source of being and understanding, as One, Mind and Spirit. And of course, the Persian Magi read the messages of the stars to find the Christ child. All these are witnesses to the truth which we Christians proclaim.
Yet we differ. We differ, because in addition to the silent language of the ordering of the universe which proceeds from the Logos, the Word or Mind of God, we have the direct self-revelation of that self-same Logos in the words of His Prophets and finally, Incarnate in the flesh of a man, born of a woman. A woman on whose waters the same One Life breathed life into the Cosmos at its primordial source: a concentration of the breath which even now permeates and gives life to all things. A man who from His very conception was in perfect conformity to the Mind of God, a perfect reflection of the pattern behind the cosmos. Through Him and in Him, the Living Word, the One Spirit breathed and kept breathing: breathing life into Him at his conception, life into the waters at His Baptism, life into the deserts at it gusted and drove Him there. And so He returns to his homeland, anointed by that Spirit and declaring it: that He is the anointed one, the Messiah, the Christ for whom the stars and scriptures alike have been crying out throughout eternity.
The difference, then, is where we draw the line. For the Greeks, the pagan Platonists, there was a line between the One, and the Mind and Spirit of the One. The Muslims would later adopt and more or less reinforce that line. Yet even among them, there was and is scholarly debate about exactly how the Qur’an, which they understand to be the perfect Word of God, and the Spirit, relate to One in Arabic called “the God,” Allah. The key to orthodox Christian doctrine is that we draw the line elsewhere: we see the unity of the One with the Word and the Spirit, and we see the Word anointed by the Spirit in the flesh and body of the Christ.
This is not in any sense to demote Scripture: the Word made Flesh is not other than the Word spoken to the Prophets, the Law of which Our Lord claimed to change not one jot or tittle (Mt 5:18), not the smallest letter or punctuation mark, and we should note that in Luke’s account, the very first words the Incarnate Word utters in His adult life are the prophecies of Scripture. In Him the Scripture is fulfilled and perfected, not destroyed or denied:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.Luke 4:16-19
But if things were left there, we would be at an impasse: an impasse between a divine mandate allegedly fulfilled two millenia ago and a world of poverty, captivity and blindness which appears to contract it, and an impasse between the words of one man in an ancient synagogue and today’s unlistening multitude. An impasse between creator and creation, between then and now, and between one man and all the rest. An impasse between the One and the many: an impasse surely augmented by the atomizing technocracy in which we die, and suffocate, and cling on to whatever vitiated detritus of the self the marketers want us to think of as our “being.” A world in which we see oneness as my oneness versus your oneness, in which we extol, nay idolatize the “individual” over the many and irreconcilably other.
Thank God, things are not left there. Because it is precisely because God is beyond the distinction of One and many, that He can call us into a life which transcends oneness and multiplicity, which lifts us beyond identity and otherness, because that life is breathed into a Body. We are called into the Mind of Christ, which is the One Mind of God, by being grafted into the Body of Christ and sharing its one Life and Breath. I am speaking, as St Paul was, of the Church:
Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.1 Cor 12:27
Paul is not speaking metaphorically. He is addressing a spiritual reality. For as long as we are blind to the suffering of others, who are members of our own body, we are blind to God and therefore to reality. Nor, when I say others, do I mean only those who are baptized Christians: for the Church is not merely a collection of individuals who have chosen to profess the same faith. The Church is the blueprint in the mind of God for the entire universe, and we see her character nowhere more clearly than in the person of Mary, Mother of God, in whose body the mind and spirit of God found refuge and nurture. We are called like her to be the Home and Bride of God, the Godbearer to the nations, the one who gives highest honour to the least and lowest – and we are called today (Lk 4:21).
So may we truly be one Church, in one faith, one Lord, one Baptism (Eph 4:5), members of one another, as indivisible as the grains in one bread (1 Cor 10:17).