We look at this Son and see the invisible God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.
He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.
Colossians 1:15-20 (The Message)
These words sum up Saint Paul’s experience of the Cosmic Christ. This is the cosmic word, God’s agent in creation, in whom the totality of the angelic beings of the hierarchies is contained. He is the origin and the destination of the earth.
Since the Fourth Century, knowledge of the cosmic dimension of Christianity passed out of mainstream Christian awareness. The official creeds saw the Son of God as one of the three divine persons of the Trinity and rejected any idea that this utterly transcendent God could be involved in the process of the world’s creation. Creation happened ‘out of nothing’ and the world was not connected organically to a spiritual world that was its source and purpose. Only in the church could salvation be found.
For Paul, there is obviously no tension between creation and the spiritual realms. The cosmic Christ, creator spirit of all that is, is also the head of the body of the ekklesia, the assembly of those who heed his call. There is an echo of this in the first communion prayer in the Act of Consecration, in which we pray that through the communion, we will be able to unite ourselves with the world’s evolving. We are consecrated not so that we separate ourselves from the world, but that we can concentrate our efforts and allow something to radiate out into the world all the more strongly. This can embrace all the the spiritual hierarchies. Each of us brings our and others’ destinies with us to the altar, which touches the realm of the angels. We may think of great events that are shaping human history—the level of the archangels and archai. We even lift our gaze to those beings of the second hierarchy who are at work in the world of nature, or to the first hierarchy, which maintains the very fabric of being itself. Then our con-celebration reaches its fulfilment, and we take our place among the ranks of angelic beings with whom we celebrate the reality of Christ’s resurrection for all of creation.