On the Fullness

Christ, whose glory fills the skies, Christ the true, the only Light

Sun of Righteousness, arise, Triumph o’er the shades of night;

Dayspring from on high, be near; Daystar, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn unaccompanied by thee;

Joyless is the day’s return Till thy mercy’s beams I see;

Till they inward light impart, Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

Visit then this soul of mine; Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;

Fill me, Radiancy divine, Scatter all my unbelief;

More and more thyself display, Shining to the perfect day.

                                                                                       —Charles Wesley

Om purnamadah purnamidam  purnatpurnamudacyate  purnasyapurnamadaya  purnameva-avasisyate

Om.  That is full, this is full.  Fullness originates from fullness.  Remove fullness from fullness and fullness remains.”

                     —Santipatham of the IśavasyopanIśad

A note on spelling: Fullness and fullness are alternate spellings of the same word, with identical meaning.  I have chosen to use the former for uniformity in searching, which is consistent with the Jerusalem Bible, whereas KJV uses the latter.

As the joyful days of the Easter season progress, it is natural that believers sense the fullness of Divine Personhood.  It is by no accident that the phenomenon is abundantly attested to in the New Testament scriptural record.  Known in the Greek as Pleroma, it is defined as (1) the spiritual universe as the abode of God and of the totality of the divine powers and emanations (more of the Gnostic definition); and/or (2) the totality or fullness of the Godhead which dwells in Christ.  It is the second to which I am drawn, the sense that Christ’s personhood fills the immense space of heaven and earth.  I wish here to attest to the living reality of that continuing presence.  The purpose of this post is threefold: (1) to document the scriptural background of the fullness of Christ; (2) to present the case for His post-resurrection reality as revealed in his appearances; and (3) to show how world religious traditions have been influenced and transformed by his Divine Personhood.

It is always best to let us immerse ourselves in the scriptures to let them speak for themselves.  To more fully instill the reality of which I am speaking, let the verses wash over you as you as you fix your mind upon them.  They will provide a context and a fuller understanding, here in the translation of the King James Version: Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.”; John 1:14 “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”; John 1:16-17 “And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.  For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”; John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”; John 14:10 “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the  words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.”; 1 Corinthians 8:6 “But to us [there is but] one God, the Father, of whom [are] all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom [are] all things, and we by him.”; 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 “For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.  And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.; Ephesians 1:9-12 “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.”; Ephesians 1:19-23 “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.”; Ephesians 3:18-19 “May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.”; Ephesians 4:4-13 “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:”; Colossians 1:15-20 “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.  For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”  (Jerusalem Bible) “….Before anything was created, he existed, and he holds all things in unity.  Now the Church is his body, he is its head.  As he is in the beginning, he was first to be born from the dead, so that he should be first in every way; because God wanted all perfection to be found in him and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, when he made peace by his death on the cross.”; Colossians 2:9-12 “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”

I have included notes to the Jerusalem Bible which add further depth to the understanding of Christ’s nature as the Divine Person who fills all things, and wish to share them with you.  While there is extensive theologizing here, we can benefit from the thought of these commentators: Ephesians 1:22-23 [“And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.”] “The adverbial phrase ‘all in all’ is used to suggest something of limitless size, cf. 1Corinthians 12:6, 15:28.”; Ephesians 3:18-19 [“May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.”] “Stoics used this expression to mean the totality of the cosmos.  Paul uses it to suggest the cosmic function of Christ in the rebirth of the world.  It could be referred to the size and  mystery of salvation, or preferably to Christ’s universal love on which (next verse) the mystery depends.”; Ephesians 4:10 [“He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.”] “By ascending through all the cosmic spheres and taking possession of them all one after another, Christ becomes the head of the whole pleroma of total cosmos, and makes the entire universe acknowledge him as ‘Lord’.”; Colossians 1:15-20 [“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature….And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.  And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.  For it pleased the the Father than in him should all fullness dwell….”] “In this poem Paul introduces two ways in which Christ can claim to be the ‘head’ of everything that exists: 1. he is the head of creation, of all that exists naturally, vv. 15-17; 2. he is the head of the new creation and of all that exists supernaturally through having been saved,  vv. 18-20.  The subject of the poem is the pre-existent Christ, but considered only so far as he is manifest in the unique historic person that is the son of God made man, cf. Philippians 2:5+.  It is as the incarnate God that Jesus is the ‘image of God’, i.e. his human nature  was the visible manifestation of God who is invisible, cf. Rm 8:29+, and it is as such, in this concrete human nature, and as a part of creation, that Jesus is called the ‘first born of creation’—not in the temporal sense of having been born first, but in the sense of  having been given the first place of honour.”; Colossians 2:9-10 [“For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.  And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”] “The  word pleroma here cf. 1:19+, is defined as the ‘divinity’ that is actually ‘filling’ Christ now in his body: in other words, the risen  Christ, through his incarnation and resurrection, unites the divine and the created.  The former is what he is by his pre-existence and his present glory; the latter is, as human, what he has assumed indirectly through being human.  In this way he himself is the pleromaof all possible categories of being….”; Colossians 2:17 [“Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”]) “ ‘but the body is Christ’—a pun on the word soma (‘body’) as being both that which is more real than any shadow or reflection, and the body of the risen Christ which is what gives reality to our eschatological hope, and which is the first evidence that the new creation has already begun.”; This term is also related to pleroma, defined [in Colossians 2:9] as the ‘divinity’ that is actually ‘filling’ Christ now in his body; in other words, the risen Christ, through his incarnation and resurrection, unites the divine and the created.  The former is what he is by his pre-existence and his present glory; the latter is, as human, what he has assumed directly, and as cosmic, what he assumed indirectly through being human.  In this way he himself is the pleroma of all possible categories of being.” Here too is also a reference to the New Man.”; Colossians 3:11 [“….but Christ is all, and in all.”] “The new creation will not be divided into races and religions and social classes in the way the present creation has been since the Fall; the whole world will be reunited in Christ.”

Philip Wiebe has made extensive documentation of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances leading to the present day in his books Visions of Jesus and Visions and Appearances of Jesus, nor is he the only one who has done so.  For a detailed account of one contemporary appearance, see my post I Just Want to See His Face.  Some recorded manifestations are larger than life.  This leads to a consideration of the Pantocrator.  The orthodox tradition has attempted to capture the reality of Divine Personhood in its artwork.  Frequently found on the ceiling of their worship spaces is the image of the Pantocrator, or Christ Pantocrator.  This is a fixture in Eastern Orthodox churches frequently painted as an iconic image of Jesus as “God Almighty” or “Ruler of All” These paintings frequently occupy the entire ceiling space, representing the immensity of his presence.  Could this be rooted in perceptual experience?  Consider, among many recorded visions of Jesus those of  his larger-than-life aspect, as that of Marian Hathaway, [“The face was so large it filled the front of the church, some twenty feet high.”]; or that of Pauline Langlois [“Jesus appeared in the sky above her head.  He appeared from the waist up and was surrounded by a very bright cloud.  His form was so large it filled the sky.”].  Etymologically, Pantocrator may be translated “the All ruler”, which is a stock rendering of the Judaic “Lord of Hosts” (Yahweh Sabaoth); the beginning and end, originator and goal of all things.  In Sanskrit terminology this relates to the siddhis, or vibhutis, thespiritual powers.  

In relationship to other religious traditions, there is evidence of Christian influence.  I am indebted to Dr. Sydney Cave for several passages from his book, Christianity and Some Living Religions of the East, which support this view.  He writes, “Early contact of Hinduism with Christianity led to movements of radical reform which readily acknowledged their indebtedness to Christianity.” A greater reality awaits: the Hindu Brahman, because of the absence of duality, cannot be known, but the Divine Personhood of Christ can.  Those drawn to the path of devotion feel the lack thereof and have stated, “the worship of the impersonal laid no hold on my heart.”  The radical reform of the Jewish tradition occurred, too, when the glory of God and God’s grace had been seen in the face of Jesus Christ.  Cave writes, “Their faith in Christ was not an embarrassment to the stern monotheism of their Jewish heritage but its enrichment.  It was through the Son that they knew the Father.  Christ is the image, the portrait of the invisible God.  To see Him is to see the Father.”  Krishna, Rama, and the Buddha may be regarded as personal, yet the ultimate Reality they hold is “impersonal and attributeless”, unlike Christ who “is the perfect Manifestation of the Divine”. Christians, then, feel no need for other manifestations, for “In their experience and their thought God and Christ are inseparably one.”  To compare, Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita is identified with the “Attributeless All of the Vedanta” and declared to be “indifferent to all born beings, and known to none”, and while in this scripture is brought into connection with the personal God, there is nowhere explained in what way the two can be identified.  Finally, in Japan, the Pure Land Sect gives energetic devotion to the grace of Amida Buddha.  Cave writes, “No sect has shown so great a power of imitating the activities of Christianity.  No longer is salvation regarded as something to be earned.  Salvation comes through faith alone, and, in trust in Amida’s grace, the faithful are urged to live lives of service.”  Truly, the fullness of Christ has transformed the religious traditions of the world. 

Others have attested similarly. Joseph Padinjarekara, linking the Christian term to the Sanskrit of his native India, writes, “Beyond any doubt we can say, this fullness (perfection) is found in God only.  From this perfection, from the fullness of God…came into this world…..St. John testifies ‘We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ (John 1:14).  Fullness of God …on earth took nothing away from the fullness of God in heaven. ‘Taking away the full from the full, the full still remains behind.’  In fact God and the Purusa (Divine Person) are inseparable and God is in Purusa and Purusa is in God. ”

Paramahansa Yogananda writes, “Christ is the manifestation of totality; his nature is one with the all-inclusive reality of the  Trinity.  Christ is the personification of the Godhead, the Divine Person…represented in the descriptive term Satchidananda, the Hindu name for the Godhead

Christians may also benefit from their considering of the writings of Swami Prabhupada.  Although rooted in the proclamation of the Krishna mythology, the relationship of the devotee to the Supreme Personality of Godhead shines through in his many translations and commentaries on the Hindu scriptures.  One of them, and my personal favorite, Śri Isopansad, contains some amazing passages relating to that fullness and completeness, which may easily describe the person of Christ.  I do not wish to overindulge you in the Sanskrit language, but its vocabulary contains specific terms which provide important keys to understanding.  In his invocation purport to this scripture he writes: “The complete whole, or the Supreme Absolute Truth, is the complete Personality of Godhead.  Realization of impersonal Brahman or of Paramatma, the Supersoul, is incomplete realization of the Absolute Complete. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha. Realization of impersonal Brahman is realization of His satfeature, or His aspect of eternity, and Paramatma realization is realization of His sat and cit features, His aspects of eternity and knowledge. But realization of the Personality of Godhead is realization of all the transcendental features—sat, cit and ananda, bliss. When one realizes the Supreme Person, he realizes these aspects of the Absolute Truth in their completeness. Vigraha means “form.” Thus the Complete Whole is not formless.  If He were formless, or if He were less than His creation in any other way, He could not be complete. The Complete Whole must contain everything both within and beyond our experience; otherwise He cannot be complete.”

May that post-resurrection presence of Christ be perceived and, if so, how may be done?  I would suggest incorporating the method of intuition, a time-tested practice employed by those ancient seers, into your daily devotion.  Placing your mind on Christ, you might draw encouragement from Philipians 2:5-11 as an entry point: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The glory of Christ enfolds us into a greater being than our own, accompanies us, and can speak to us.  I am convinced that he is the pinnacle of spiritual revelation, and to which the spiritual traditions of the world lead.  While we may not be granted such a vision, we can become filled with his glory and participate in the divine life he leads.  In closing, may I leave you with St. Patrick’s hymn:

“I bind unto myself today

  The strong name of the Trinity

  By invocation of the same,

  The Three in One and One in Three.

  I bind this day to me forever,

  By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation,

  His baptism in the Jordan River,

  His cross of death for my salvation,

  His bursting from the spiced tomb,

  His riding up the heavenly way,

  His coming at the day of doom,

  I bind unto myself today.

  I bind unto myself today

  The virtues of the starlit heaven,

  The glorious sun’s life giving ray,

  The whiteness of the moon at even,

  The flashing of the lightning free,

  The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,

  The stable earth, the deep salt sea,

  Around the old eternal rocks.

  I bind unto myself today

  The power of God to hold and lead,

  His eye to watch, his might to stay,

  His ear to hearken to my need,

  The wisdom of my God to teach,

  His hand to guide, his shield to ward,

  The Word of God to give me speech,

  His heavenly host to be my guard.

  I bind unto myself the name,

  The strong name of the Trinity

  By invocation of the same,

  The Three in One and One in Three,

  Of whom all nature has creation,

  Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.

  Praise to the Lord of my salvation;

  Salvation is of Christ the Lord!”

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