by Susan Russell
The daily meditations that arrive in my email inbox from Richard Rohr are always worth reading and usually worth sharing. We are honored as a parish to be the venue for the video presentations of his “Conspiracy for God” conference series (“Season One” available for “Re-Viewing” on January 10th at All Saints) – and his recent reflection on The Incarnation struck me as a great addition to our Advent Meditation Calendar.
“Incarnation” by Richard Rohr
Jesus said, “You must lose yourself to find yourself” (Matthew 16:25). For some sad reason most people have presumed that the self that had to die, the self we had to lose, was the physical self, when actually Jesus meant the ego self, the separate self, the self-created by our own mind and adventures. This is what passes away.
There seems to be some deep bias against embodiment, materiality, and physicality. That is where we harbor our inferiority feelings. You’d think if there would be any religion in the world that would not think that way, it would be Christianity, because Christianity is the only religion that believes that God became a body, became a human being: Jesus. That’s why we get so excited about Christmas! We call it the Feast of the Incarnation or “enfleshment.” But I find most mainline Christians to be quite “excarnational” and moving opposite to the path of Jesus and trying to be “spiritual,” whatever that means.
The eternal Christ Mystery began with the Big Bang where God decided to materialize as the universe. Henceforth, the material and the spiritual have always co-existed, just as Genesis 1:1-2 seems to be saying. Although this Christ existed long before Jesus, and is coterminous with creation itself, Christians seem to think Christ is Jesus’ last name. What Jesus allows us to imagine—because we see it in him—is that the divine and the human are forever one. God did not just take on one human nature, although that is where we could first risk imagining it in the body of Jesus. God took on all human nature and said “yes” to it forever! In varying degrees and with infinite qualities, God took on everything physical, material, and natural as himself. That is the full meaning of the Incarnation. To allow such a momentous truth, to fully believe it, to enjoy it in practical ways, to suffer it with and for others—this is what it means to be a Christian! Nothing less will do now. Nothing less will save the world.
For most Christians, though, Jesus is totally divine, but not totally human. We deny his humanity and overly assert his divinity—instead of the very synthesis that he came to exemplify, announce, and share! We’ve paid a big price for such dualistic thinking because when we can’t put it together in him, we can’t put it together in ourselves either. And that’s the whole point! You and I are simultaneously children of heaven and children of earth, divine and human coexisting in a well hidden disguise. We are a living paradox, just as Jesus was. We also are a seeming contradiction that is not a contradiction at all. Most Christians were simply never told the real good news that flesh and spirit, divine and human, coexist. That was not made clear in Jesus and surely not in ourselves. The consequences have been disastrous at all levels. Matter always reveals Spirit, and Spirit lies hidden in all that is physical, material, earthly, human, flawed, and failing. Everything is a sacrament! Nothing else could be called utter and final good news except this message. It is indeed a benevolent universe.
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For more information on the upcoming Conspire Re-View, visit the All Saints Event Page.