Daily Meditations

Prayer for Universal Salvation (Part I)

It is out of respect for our freedom that God allows evil to exist; it has already been conquered, but secretly, because the Holy Spirit wishes to regenerate us from within, by a free and faithful response, without compulsion. What matters in the history of the Church is her holiness, her awareness, in a world that is utterly free, that Christ has conquered death once and for all, and that his victory is always present in his Church.

The saints after their death, the martyrs beneath the throne of the lamb (Revelation 6.9-11) await and make ready for the final transformation. Origen says that Christ also waits, for the full assembly of the universal Body of which he is the head; only then will his glory shine forth.

Thus will come about the completion of all things, when the Spirit of life, through the communion of saints, will manifest the whole universe as the glorified Body of Christ. Then each person, in giving his face to the transfigured universe, will rediscover his flesh; flesh vibrant with all its natural sensitivity, our earthly flesh, but bathed in the life and fullness of God, who will be ‘all in all’, abolishing the separations of time and space, making possible among the risen a communion beyond anything we can now imagine.

All the complexity of our nature, shaped as it has been by the dramatic events of history, and by the ways we have used and misused our freedom; all the ambiguity, henceforth transfigured, of the ‘garments of skins’ will find a place in the Kingdom; in the being that was created wholly good we have used our freedom to dig holes of nothingness; hut we shall discover to our amazement that they have become the wounds in Christ’s hands and feet and heart, through which the divine life comes to us and will come to us forever. And all creatures brought by our love to share in the Presence will also find a place in the new Jerusalem: such-and-such an animal or tree, the tawny plain at evening, when black bulls of the night mingle with white horses of the day, all these will be there, in the radiance of the Risen Christ. For he, while his friends were fishing, had lit a charcoal fire on the lake shore to grill fishes to share with them when they returned. John, Peter, will not the nearness and the unknowing of that face always bring back to you, in the Kingdom of God, the smell of grilled fish, the glow of the charcoal, the peace of the lake where earth embraces heaven?

Nevertheless, although the hell of our fallen state has been secretly abolished in Christ, and although God must be revealed at the Last Day as ‘all in all’, there remains the heartrending mystery of the ‘second death’ of the Revelation, the final death of the human being without love plunged into the divine love. For God will never reject anybody, his love is offered to all. But the fire of that love, as St Isaac the Syrian says, is eternal joy for those who welcome it and infernal torment for those who refuse it. Generic hell, as we might call it, may have been destroyed by Christ, but for each free individual there remains the terrible possibility of personal hell. But does this not amount to a fatal obstruction to the divine plan for that universal communion which is the only hope for the fulfilment of the person?

~Olivier Clement, On Human Being:  A Spiritual Anthropology