Tag Archives: Incarnation

January 2, 2018; Father Andrew at Christmas, X: Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore.

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Mary Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury

Our last reading from Father Andrew this Christmastime.

Adoro Te Devote Latens Deitas

Who could refuse the appeal
Of Baby hands stretched out caressingly,
Or patter of Baby feet upon the stair?
It was like Love to deal
So with us in His sweet humility,
To be a little Child amongst us here;
And at the last, when those same hands had borne
The scars of labour and the pierce of sin,
Faithful at eventide as in the morn
Of His first Coming, still to seek to win,
With bleeding hands held wide in mute appeal,
The acceptance of His own unchanging love.

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New Year’s Day, 2018. Father Andrew at Christmas IX: Through Angel’s Eyes

angel.astonishedI think Angels are pretty scary aliens – just go back and read Sister Johanna’s posts about Zechariah’s experience! When we look Through Angel’s Eyes we may wonder who are the aliens – the Angels or us?

The winter night knows many a star,
But the Angels have found one brighter far
Than any that ever has shone before;
They float and fall through the silent snow
Like birds of God, to settle below;
To find our earth the Angels go.

A poor little planet, a poor little town,
A poor little cradle, not lined with down,
A particular absence of all renown;
Angels must be peculiar things,
Who float and fall with wheeling wings
To seek in such for the King of kings.

If we were heaven-taught we should know
That what we think high God might yet think low,
And straight to Bethlehem singing go;
For this earth of ours is still the Star
Whither the Angels flew from far,
Where the Christ-child and His Mother are.

More bright than the star that Wisdom led,
To Angels’ eyes shone the cattle-shed,
Where the little Christ once laid His head;
And ‘twixt the tapers, just the same
As when to Bethlehem once they came,
To Angels’ eyes must the altar flame.

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25 December. Five notes: Father Andrew at Christmas, III.

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More from Fr Andrew’s Introduction to his book of Carols.

The Mystery of the Incarnate Love has brought to us, first of all, a revelation of simplicity. Theology teaches us that the life of God is a simple act, and, since God is Love, that act must surely be, however expressed, an act of love; and here in the little Babe laid in the midst of the straw of our human poverty is the simple appeal and revelation of the love of God.

The second note is sympathy, and that in the direct meaning of the word – ‘suffering with.’ We cannot understand the mystery of suffering, and really there is no particular reason why we should, since God has suffered with us, and one of the sufferings of God was this very mystery of suffering, for did not He take upon His lips the great classic words of the twenty-second Psalm and cry in His own darkness, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’

The third note is joy. These poems and carols all have in them a note of joy and a note of pain. Laughter and tears are mingled in these Christmas songs.

The fourth is the sacredness of human nature. God joined together flesh and spirit. Sin put these asunder, and by the fall of man the flesh, which was only lower than spirit in condition and degree, became lower also in quality, and by the taint and twist of original sin this human nature of ours was made to seem a bad thing, as though the flesh were, in God’s intention, the enemy of spirit. In the coming of the Holy Child, when the angels sang their Gloria, once more flesh and spirit were united in perfect oblation.

The fifth note, which contains in it all else, is love. Over the cross, over the manger, over the altar, one can write the golden words, ‘God is Love.’

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December 1: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxxi – We have problems

carvingwomanchichChichester Cathedral

Christianity is the only religion believing in the full enfleshment of God – yet we seem to have problems with it.

Even a cursory look at our tragic sexual state, our pollution of the planet, our out of control consumerism… suggests a problem. In practice sex seems to be the only sin we worry about, when Jesus reminds us of the weightier matters of faith, peace with justice, mercy and compassion – Matthew 23.23. The Incarnation tells us to trust our in-body experience – it is the way God provides for us to meet. Our spirit is illusory without body and soul. See it in religious practice that is all head. Soul is the lost sense of the Holy Spirit; and the body is rejected. This wasn’t always the case, though passion, father, mother, sister, brother have now become no more than titles instead of real experiences. Ritual has become safe!

If we encourage co-dependency on system [ritual] we are simply doing what the world does. An over-emphasis on personal prayer has left folk bereft of the intimacy of personal prayer. We are meant to experience the presence of God, not just acknowledge the value of it. Felt religion needs to be reclaimed. We are well aware of the anguish and ecstasy in relationships; can we say the same about prayer? Without the sense of presence anguish becomes anger and accusation. We seem to hear much more about annulments, excommunications and dispensations than about healing.

Praying in words helps me express my dependence on God – praying in silence lets me experience it. Watch a mother hold a feverish child – see the child calm down and even sleep, because it is experiencing safety and not just hearing about it. There is vastly more to living than my private life. Contemplation needs underpinning by belonging [community]. Social prayer recognises that there is only one goodness, one suffering, and even one sin! So much about life can neither be explained nor fixed, but it is felt, enjoyed and suffered. Crying is not manly! A man who cannot cry is not fully alive. We can’t relish life until we experience its tears – happy and sad.

If laughter and tears are not around, I’m on the wrong road. God heals our brokenness and our weakness. When we venture into sacred space there is an element of discomfort, if only because it isn’t where I usually am. It is the prophetic in life that lures me – showing me the inadequacy of the normal. Reality begins to arrive when death is experienced as integral to life, and failure and success are the same; and I no longer need to leave the secular to find the sacred – the veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom – Matthew 27.51.

There is no natural world where God is not present. But I need the eyes to see this. It is a move from simple consciousness into enlightenment – I have to let go, through some disillusion with what is. We seldom freely go there – it is usually thrust upon us by suffering, injustice, sin and bereavement. Normal tends to mean rejecting weakness and over-working strengths. By claiming to be in control I reveal my weakness, becoming who I am supposed to be rather than who I am.

While most problems are psychological, most answers are spiritual. Which tells us to stop trying to solve them – we need to forgive and integrate them.

AMcC

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November 30: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxx – Pray!

samaritanwomanBaptistery, Abbey of St Maurice, Switzerland

Institutional Religion at its best needs incarnational living – you say it, now live it – otherwise we will let intimacy decay into orthopraxy. This is why contemplation has a social element. The openness of the prairie alongside living in my backyard. In this way every difference can find a hearing and enjoy respect, when all becomes one in the mystery. For to know God is vital – more important than what I am going to do about it. We have differences of all kinds – this should tell us that we cannot all see God in the same way! What matters is to hear what God is asking and respond uniquely: as God has shown me what it was mine to do may God show you what is yours to do. It is we who are threatened by differences, not God.

I can trust myself because God trusts me. Nothing about me will be used against me – even my sin is forgiven! Sin shall not be your shame, but your glory – Julian of Norwich. If this isn’t good news what is? The Samaritan woman with 5 husbands doesn’t get a lecture on Canon Law; Jesus joins her where she is – by listening to her; and then invites her into freedom, and asks her to spread it around – he told me all about myself… and not just what she already knew! Do not be afraid – your life is respected and is working for your well-being. Nothing within us is as bad as our denial of it, since everything belongs.

To be aware of the presence of God is to be forgiven, to be cherished exactly as I am. To be holy [whole] is know God as total love and self as loved by God totally: You will enjoy the mystery of salvation through forgiveness of sin – cf. Luke 1.77. There is no room for forgiveness in a world of meritocracy, it can’t breathe in an atmosphere of rights. How can you have a quid-pro-quo where love and compassion are already given without the asking – fore-given!

The early Church believed universal salvation – apokatastasis – but it was never defined [or condemned]. Since I have brought good from the worst-ever evil, I want you to know I bring good out of lesser evils too – Julian of Norwich. God is the only teacher and the only lesson is love. Do I want Isis to be loved and forgiven? With the 11th hour labourers and the Prodigal along with his brother there’s no question of having to deserve. God cannot be where forgiveness is not welcome. It sets logic aside – what is appropriate is a time of quiet to make room for regret and repentance – not to gain forgiveness, but to recover self-respect.

A common feature of personal sin is the delight we seem to take in highlighting the sins of others. Forgiveness is costly, it is taking on a powerlessness by allowing nothing to keep me from being with – as God is freely and always with me – even when I am decidedly not with God [take up your cross daily]. What is at the heart of physical attraction, why are we fascinated by the image of another? How we relate to one person sets a pattern for my relating. It is bringing together our differences – human and divine, male and female, sin and forgiveness. So, who are sinners? Anyone who keeps all these things apart from each other – Religion – re-ligio means to reconnect; reconciling opposites. Christianity is the only religion believing in the full enfleshment of God – yet we seem to have problems with it.

AMcC

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November 27: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxvii – Incarnation is about being adult

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A crucial issue about creation is the emphasis we tend to put on the divine coming into the world as a helpless baby – but the Incarnation is primarily about being adult, not being a child. The Incarnation of the divine in human existence happened 2000 years ago. Says who? The human species has been on earth for over 6 million years – and the 2000 years has tended to distort this. Incarnation did not begin with Jesus’ earthly dwelling 2000 years ago. It began 6 million years ago when the human species first evolved. The first 5 million happened in what we know as Africa.

Thus far our human unfolding has been largely of a biological nature, it has taken that long to bring our biological development to maturity. Biological development has reached a high point, we can’t evolve much further. The future will be spiritual development rather than physical growth, which we call the Kingdom of God. The days of hard graft with the focus on the material is changing; the future is about growth in mind and spirit. Which is what Jesus promised: if I do not go I cannot send the Spirit to lead into this fullness. Resurrection means humanity refashioned in the direction of the spiritual rather than the physical.

This transformation is global, not confined to the Christian religion. Because all religions suffer the desire for control, all have developed notions of incarnation that are alarmingly exclusive. None of them – including Christianity – have fully appreciated what unconditional love means. There is no such thing as a master species, each is unique in its capacity to give, and is equally co-dependent. Humanity has the responsibility for drawing forth the conscious dimension of creation especially through evolution which is crucial for our understanding of universal life.

This brings out the capacity for wisdom, necessary to keep us on the way to universal love. This is where things have gone wrong – wisdom became rational and mechanistic, serving the love of power rather than the power of love. Learning to love unconditionally is crucial if we are to have meaningful relationships; there can be no love where there is no justice. Sadly, many religions work hard at installing love – but too often neglect justice. Justice translates ideals into action, and engenders hope. Justice means holding no one and no thing in disregard. Mistakenly we link justice with just wages, just rights [rarely speaking of responsibilities]. Justice is all about fostering right relationships – a way of life that means empowering the powerless. Right relationships cannot exist where rivalry rules; where economies, health and education are based on competition.

Justice should be taken out of religious systems, because religions are tainted by association with oppressive regimes. Justice needs to be primary. We need to learn to think differently in order to see the bigger vision. Thinking should always be inclusive – we are expected not to think ourselves into a new way of living; but to live ourselves into a new way of thinking. Put simply, everything and everybody is included – no exclusions whatsoever. Indeed there are obstacles, we have been brainwashed about who to like and who to dislike, who to love and who to hate – all that has to be left behind.

Equally important, the Kingdom is not just about people – it’s also about systems and structures. The Cosmos is the womb of belonging – things either belong or they have no existence. Relating in the Kingdom is not possible without recognising we belong to the whole of creation – from where everything starts. In creation everything has its place and space, awaiting the warmth of hospitality; which allows for all kinds of possibilities.

As we have seen, God didn’t create a perfect world, but a world able to become what it was meant to be by the way it is lived in. For thousands of years we befriended creation in its birthing forth bringing new life through growth and decay – all this was spoiled when missionaries came and caused confusion by insisting that we were wrong to worship nature – when all we were doing was being at home with it. We need to recover awareness of the enormity and complexity of our beautiful world; only then do we have any hope of walking in tandem with Evolution.

Church is never to be equated with Kingdom. When it comes to Church we need to recall what Paul told us after visiting those infant Christian communities; that we relish what we have been given and don’t be over-concerned about structure and procedure. We must rid ourselves of all aspects on imperialism, with its regalia and pomposity and the accompanying legalism. The Kingdom is all about right relationships, not just in a religious or church context, but in fidelity to the wonder of and enjoying belonging. Every human structure needs to be called to give account of its stewardship.

AMcC

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November 19: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xix – ‘Our identity is the sum of all these relationships.’

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The ability to relate is our gateway to meaning. Everything in creation evolves, grows and dies, in a process of birth-death-rebirth. Stars exploded, radiating out vast dust containing various gases – especially carbon. This is where our story begins; the stars are our ancestors. Carbon gets entwined with the wonder of photosynthesis as a source of nourishment. All those energies relating to tides, water, and vapour – even the menstrual cycle – owe their origin to the moon.

Long before procreation dreams existed, yearnings, longings and desires; and when creation was ready to welcome yet another creative gift – through the lure of erotic love, procreation happens. Parents are the biological channel through which this energy of the ages is transmitted into a new creature. A process reactivated every time a flower blooms, a seed dies and sperm and egg meet. What constitutes our identity is the sum of all these relationships.

But what about the soul? We tend to ask where the soul fits in this process. In a relational universe things don’t just fit – it is creative energy flowing in interweaving patterns. The soul is energy, holding together the movements of creative possibilities. Dualisms like body/soul, body/spirit, are not helpful. There is no distinction between body, soul and spirit; everything is pregnant with spirit-power. Bodies don’t need to have souls inserted to make them live [batteries included!]. It is not the soul that gives identity/character to the body. The erotic is the creative energy through which we connect within creation. What is the point of incarnation if the body cannot enjoy?

The Kingdom has to do not with heroes but with lovers. Ask what did the women at the tomb miss – and what did the disciples miss? One was relational, the other – we’ve lost a leader. Any wonder Jesus needed to ask: who do you say I am? Does Peter really answer this with – you are the Christ, Son of the living God? What problems it caused! Christ never called himself that; he didn’t like titles. Christ has nothing to do with power. What we are all about is quality relationships. Nothing makes sense in isolation, not even Christ. I am because we are!

Free will and intelligence are wonderful gifts, but become liabilities if we divorce them from imagination and intuition. We belong to the whole creation, not just one part of it. Breaking the planet into segments called nations is a purely human invention – belonging more to the divide and conquer vision of reality [as history has proved]. Creation is essentially undivided. This is why Jesus could not live up to the messianic expectations he met, which were very much in line with divide and conquer.

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November 7, Jesus Beyond Dogma II: vii – “Christ is everything and is in everything”

 

The Incarnation means God identifying with the human species. There is the Christic structure in all of us. Everything is open to infinite growth because God’s being, in whose image we are created, is love, communication, infinite openness. This total communication is called “Son” or “Word” in God. It means that creation possesses the structure of the Son in as much as everything communicates itself, maintains an external relationship, and realises itself by self-giving. The Son is active in the world from the very moment of creation. This activity becomes concentrated when the Word became flesh in Jesus and finally spread throughout the cosmos through the Resurrection: “Christ is everything and is in everything“- Colossians 1.17.

It took concrete form in Jesus because he, from all eternity, was thought of and loved as the focal being in which God would be totally manifested outside God. The Incarnation finishes the complete inter-weaving of God and humankind, in a total unity. Jesus is the exemplar of what will happen to all human beings and the totality of creation. He is the future already realised.

Again, in the Book of Genesis, God gives us the task of naming Creation for God, and tells us that is the name by which it will be known. Considering our track record, it seems that God was backing a loser! Unless – God always intended to become part of Creation. But looking around at the mess the world is in – the fear, the evil, the injustice, the abuse – we could be excused for asking will it ever happen, will Creation ever achieve its purpose of becoming one with the divine?

It already has achieved its purpose – in Jesus we have what is uncreated and what is created totally one. What is in Jesus will be in the rest of Creation by the way those who believe actually live in the world. I used to wonder about all the names we are supposed to think up to name Creation for God, until I found Francis of Assisi – and he tells us the names by which Creation is known are sister and brother, because God is Abba for all of us, through friar Christ.

The coming of Jesus marks not the beginning of a uniquely divine enterprise but its completion. Chardin points out that in the biological part of our existence we could not evolve much further, God has achieved what God set out to achieve; and the coming of God among us in the biological embodiment of Jesus affirms this.

But Jesus is more than a biological creature; as divine he is the transforming of the biological state into which humans will now evolve – with new powers of mind and spirit – which reaches its highest expression in Jesus Risen. To reduce the human story to the past 2000 years diminishes God’s role in the whole creation story. Putting Jesus on a divine pedestal leaves no room for a radically new way of being human.

AMcC

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August 12: Grace is given unawares and unearned and everywhere: A Franciscan Revolution People.

MMB.

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6 June, Year of Mercy: Not by Conflict but by Encounter!

Rood: Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge. MMB.

mercylogoWe need to be moved to look into the depths of conscience and listen to that word which says: Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation. Look upon your brother’s sorrow and do not add to it, stay your hand, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered; and all this achieved not by conflict but by encounter!

War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: “No more one against the other, no more, never! … War never again, never again war!” (Address to the United Nations, 1965). Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace for Syria, the Middle East, and the whole world!

The boundary set for evil is divine mercy – Jesus is mercy in person. To meet Christ is to meet mercy – who sees me sees the Father. Justice is never the foundation for mercy – simply love. Sadly, in the theological manuals mercy was relegated to a footnote – mercy is concerned with the justification of the sinner not the sin! Divine Mercy, of course, is the unconditional love of God seen from the point of view of the sinner. It is the fidelity of the love of God. This is the Good News of the Gospel.

First of all there is the Incarnation, which we celebrate at Christmas. Though he was God he emptied himself, becoming like unto us in all things but sin. He became obedient to death on the cross as we see during Holy Week. John said, “Greater love than this no one has that he lay down his life for his friend.” Paul said that there is an even greater love and that is when we lay down our life not for our friend but for our enemy. And he reminds us that we were sinners when Jesus died for us. And there is an even greater love than this and that is that after having given his life for his enemy he offers it again in the Eucharist to be rejected and crucified again.

Jesus said that he came not for the just but for the sinner. He ate and drank with sinners. He forgave sins and delegated that same power to his apostles. He taught the parables of the lost coin, the Good Shepherd, and the prodigal son, all of which tell us that the Divine Mercy is not “the pardon of a judge, but the embrace of a lover.”

AMcC.

 

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