Tag Archives: Mystery of the Incarnation

And Hath with His Hand

[I’m finally returning to my writing challenge!  My Internet access was down for a couple of days, so I randomly selected a verse the old-fashioned way – with a real, solid, three-dimensional Bible and a quick pointing hand…]

Does God have a mouth? Does God have a hand? …Does God have a face?

1 Kings 8:14-15

And the King turned his face about, and blessed all the congregation of Israel: and all the congregation of Israel stood:

And he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which spake with his mouth unto David my father, and hath with his hand fulfilled it…”.

The human body is a beautiful and marvelous thing. A thing because each human body has physical shape and form, it is an object of flesh that exists in the world. And, yet, not a thing, and much more than a thing, because each human body is created by God in order to be a beloved creature of both flesh and spirit. Therefore, in grammatical terms, we should think of the human body, not so much as an object, but, rather, as a subject. The human body is subject to nature – and also to the human person. Above all, the human body, being created lovingly and purposefully by God, for God, is subject to God.

Okay… Maybe that’s a bit confusing. But, often, it is confusing to consider the human body in the light of the Christian faith. The confusion comes, most strongly, when we think that the body is sinful. The body is not sinful. Nothing created by God is sinful. Trees, birds, water, stars – none of these are sinful.

What is sin?

Sin is not imperfection. If that were so, then the person with the most imperfect body, one that contains genetic defect, say, and is severely crippled and weak, would be the most sinful. And the person with the most nearly perfect body would be the least sinful. And we all know that that’s not true.

Sin is also not bodily desire. The body craves and desires food – rightly so, for the body needs food in order to survive, and God did not create our bodies so that we would starve them to death. We also bodily desire sleep when we are tired and a good washing when we are dirty. All good stuff. The only bodily desires that are sinful are those that are self-centered. Yes, eating and sleeping are about self-preservation – but a kind of self-preservation that God desires. Imagine, for example, if we were locked in a room with one another, with no escape and with nothing to eat for days on end. We would, naturally, be very hungry and desire to eat something, maybe anything – maybe even one another! But, God certainly would not want us to kill each other in order that we may eat. Healthy bodily desires that turn toward selfishness, toward greed, gluttony, lust, toward actions at the expense of others – these are not God-centered desires but, rather, self-centered and, so, sinful.

For, sin is about the human will, not the human body.

Do we will what God wills? Or do we will only what we will, even if that goes against God Our Creator?

As the Baltimore Catechism states, we are created by God to know, love, and serve God in this life, and to be happy with God forever in the next. It is for the purpose of this knowing God, loving God, and serving God that God created us – body and soul. With our mouths and with our hands, with our ears and with our feet, and also, first, with our brains, we communicate with God by receiving and understanding God’s will – and then doing it. We can help feed the hungry who have no food with the bread in our own hands. We can lead the lost or the homeless who desire shelter with our feet. We can listen to those who are bereft and desire comfort with our ears and speak of God’s love and mercy to them with our mouths. We can do these things with our bodies – when our hearts and minds will to do so. If our hearts and minds are in union with God, then we will bodily love one another as God loves us.

Almighty God, who is Infinite and Eternal, the Creator and Master of the Universe, does not have bodily shape and form. God is spirit. God is not physical and, therefore, able to be broken down into parts, able to die. Therefore, it is wrong to say that God has a physical mouth or a physical hand. Or that God has a physical face.

And, yet…

God chose to become one of us.

The Word of God, which is not thought in a fleshly brain or spoken from a fleshly mouth, was made flesh. Jesus Christ is the Word of God Incarnate, made flesh, made one of us. Jesus is fully God and fully human. So, although it may not be proper to say that God has a face, that God has a mouth and hands, because of Christ, because of the Incarnation,  God spoke with a human mouth and worked with human hands… God laughed, wept, and smiled with a human face. And when Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me,” he was speaking of the profoundly intimate connection and union that God has with each and every human being through Christ, Our Lord.

When we wash the dirty face of a poor and orphaned child with our own hands, it is God working through us. We, with our own freewill, choose freely to cooperate with God’s will. To co-operate. And our hands, although they are not truly Jesus’s hands, are like his hands, are like the hands with which God gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and bread to the multitudes. Then, we are truly like Christ – we are real Christians.

And, most profoundly and awesomely, when we wash that helpless child’s face… we’re washing the face of Jesus, the face through which God smiled.

Christ Jesus, who was physically thirsty and tired, desired water to drink from the Samaritan’s well. Christ Jesus, who was physically exhausted and weak, desired bodily assistance to carry his cross to Golgotha. And Christ Jesus, who began his earthly life as a helpless little baby, desired and needed to be physically taken care of, dependent on others for every thing of survival.

So, yes, let us think of God having a face, and mouth, and hands… they are yours… they are theirs…… they are his.

© 2015 Christina Chase

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Between God and Men

Getting to know the unknowable…

1 Timothy 2:5

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

The source of all Creation – the universe (the multiverse) and everything within – is ONE.  Every living thing has the same source, the same initiator, the same Creator – and is part of what has been created, of what is being created, of the great unfolding of time and space.  Nobody invents himself, nobody makes herself.  Everybody is made by the Unmade Maker, everybody is dependent upon the Unmoved Mover, and everybody’s reason for being is from the Uncaused Cause.  No exceptions.  No escape.

We, human beings, are intelligent creatures, who often think that we can know everything.  But, we cannot.  We cannot find every living thing that the Creator has brought into being, for our visions and our lifespans, like our intelligence, are limited.  But, we like to look.  We like to try.  We experience great wonder and awe when we uncover the existence of a creature or created force that was heretofore unknown to us and, for a moment, we glimpse the vastness of the created world and the workings of our brains stop in utter astonishment, sensing the gap.  That great rift, that great chasm, is not a gap in our knowledge to be filled in with the later workings of later minds.  No.  It is the schism between finite intelligence and infinite intelligence.  It is the divide between human and divine.  And we have nothing in our earthly, limited, creature powers with which to traverse it.

We might always lie languishing on this side of the ravine, continually wondering, perpetually speculating, knowing this much and then knowing more – but never knowing the Something More definitively beyond our sensual reach.  Unless… unless it is not we, creatures, who reach up, stacking our stones into a tower to extend beyond our sky, igniting our clever ambitions to soar beyond our home planet and explore others.  What microscopes, telescopes, and rocket ships cannot bring to our senses, cannot deliver to our understanding, only God can.  We can comprehend how the human eye evolves from a cell of light-sensitive pigment, but we cannot comprehend the immortal living light that is ever undetectable to any pigment, any cell, any creature’s eye.

But, we can be personally introduced… we can know Him… we can love Him…

God from God,

Light from Light,

True God from True God….

The divine scope is limitless, the divine touch without boundaries.  Though there be an abyss between the minds of creature and Creator, it is not one that cannot be crossed.  Creatures alone cannot cross – but the Creator can.  The crossing of the Creator to the creature is a marrying, a uniting – the crossing of the Creator is a taking up of creaturehood.  God becomes one of us.  For the only way to know God is to love God.  And though we may love God in the wondrous contemplation of His universe, which He alone willed into being, and though we may, like children, love the giver of good things and fear the punishment that comes from being disobedient, it is in the fullness of our humanity and the fullness of our maturity as creatures of spiritual intelligence, memory, and free will, that we are grasped by God, that we choose to take the hand of our Creator/Sanctifier/Redeemer and become redeemed.

The Source of All Life does not remain distant, even though the Source is beyond calculations.  The One And Only who willed me into being, who willed you into being, who willed the existence of everything in existence, who set the scope and boundaries of creatures, wills to become one creature – and in being, unites every creature, unites all of the created world to a real and true human heart that loves as humans love when clasped by the divine –  unites us to the Heart of God that is the Heart of Love, loving as God loves when lowing and emptying to cross to the human.

If you seek what cannot be sought, then you will find in the God-Man, Jesus Christ, the fullness of divine love, given perpetually to you, so that you may take the Hand offered you and cross over.

© 2014 Christina Chase

With My Whole Heart before the gods

There are gods and there is God.  There are words and there is the Word.  There is strength and there is strength.

Psalms 138:1-3

  1. I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee.

  2. I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

  3. In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.

 

In our material lives we live in the flesh, solid and “real”, we direct our gazes upon the bright and shiny and our ears upon the brash and the loud.  This is our survival instinct, we do it to survive.  And we look for the symmetrical and are drawn to this beauty, and listen for the soothing and are drawn to this comfort.  This, too, is instinct, we do it to thrive.  All instinct is geared toward pleasure, the material comforts of life, the pleasing sensations of flesh.  And when this goal is achieved and we thrive successfully, we remember our choices, like patterns, and follow those patterns repetitively expecting the same results.  Being all human, when we follow the same patterns, those markers, those things chosen stand out as things to be much sought after, much desired, as things worth sacrifice in order to have.  We set them up like gods.  They bring out division among us, jealousy from within us, yielding strife, discord, wars.  Appease the gods of materialism, the gods of greed, the gods of lust, prostate your dignity before the temples of sex and money and receive the demigods’ rewards.  We are willing to pay the price because we don’t know the cost.

What is human dignity?  Is it the absence of embarrassment?  And, therefore, is it the presence of pride and honor?  If one does not have material wealth, material beauty, material health, if one does not have independence, attraction, or any physical strength, is that person undignified?  What if someone steals prescriptions from her own father or child in order to feel less overwhelmed by anxiety and more focused on things that need to be done in order to survive?  Is she not simply appeasing the gods?  What if someone dresses alluringly and uses the talents of her body to gain protection or promotion and prestige?  Is she not merely another worshiper practicing the rites?  What if someone beats or maims or murders in order that his life may look bright and shiny and his whims of pleasure answered or so that he may gain protection or promotion and prestige?  Isn’t he just surviving and thriving, praising the desirable goals as he puts an end to whoever stands between him and the gods?  Should these people not be considered role models and heroes?

We often measure strength by the ability to move one’s body in desirable ways, to push things out of one’s way, or to forcibly get one’s way.  We look at the physical.  And seriously, what else are we supposed to look at?  With our eyes we can only see what can be seen with our eyes.  Objects of beauty, comfort and praise are visible.  Words of guidance, comfort and praise are audible with our ears – for what are we supposed to hear except for what can be heard with our ears?  And we embrace and hold onto the material, as well – for our muscles for grasping are physical.  So we have gods, and words, and strength… But we have not holiness.  Holiness – the quality of a true God, and therefore of true worship – is “other”.  It is not something that we see in ourselves with our eyes, nor hear in ourselves with our ears, nor hold close to ourselves with our bodies.  Holiness is other than.  Other than mere survival.  Other than animal instinct.  Other than material wealth.  Other than physical health that is physical strength or even aesthetic beauty.  Other than worldly prestige, honor and praise.  Holiness is other than independence.

What is “real” is what comes from ultimate reality.  Ultimate reality is about being, while what we call “real” is about forms.  We think that if we cannot see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, or touch it, then it isn’t real.  Even love, which causes many to wax poetic and is the subject of much romantic sentiment and ideals, even love is easily reduced to forms.  Love has pieces and parts and is reduced to the sum of its parts: instincts of attraction, protection, attachment caused by brain chemicals and hormones; hugs and kisses; formulaic words; gifts of tribute and sacrifices as proof – for love itself is just another little god, and our instinctive or conditioned worship is to seek the little god’s blessing, reward that is felt in the flesh and that dies with the flesh.  Though the truly successful, whether they worship love or wealth or control of others, are deemed successful if they are remembered after their bodies are buried in the dirt.  If some words can be written down about them, in poems or history books or on the sides of stone buildings, or, at the very least, in newspaper eulogies and on tombstones – if these words exist, then this is all that we can know of eternity.  Certainly, it is all that we can know in the flesh.

What of the word that is other…?  The wordless Word that is not uttered with a mouth or written in any form.  The Holy Word.  The Word that is ultimate reality, that is being itself, that is the source of all forms and yet not contained within any of them.  The Word that is irreducible and imperishable and, therefore, stronger than strength – actually eternal.  The Word that we can only see with our eyes shut, the Word that we can only hear in silence – that which cannot be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched.  The Word that can only be communicated through a communion… The Word that can only be received without possession.  The wordless Word of the one, true living God who is Ultimate Reality, who is what always was, what is, and what always will be.

And… if this Word were to assume our human nature, were to take on our human flesh… well, then, and only then, through this divine initiation of communion, could we be able to experience Ultimate Reality in forms and come to know holiness, and truly worship with true dignity, true praise, and true strength for all the days of living – days beyond forms, the day eternal.

Christina Chase

Written Not with Ink

2 Corinthians 3:3

Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

The word of God is not merely to be written down, memorized and recited.  The word of God is to be lived.  Those who have never read or heard a single word of the Bible may know God’s word better than those who can deliver chapter and verse.  For the word of God is not a concept.  The word of God is not some thing.  The word of God is someone.  The Word of God is a Divine Person, is with God and is God, existing before time and space.  All of Creation came through the Word, and nothing exists without the Word.  Into particular time and space, through the Mystery of the Incarnation, the Word became flesh, assuming human nature and dwelling among us.  The Divine Person Who is the creating Word of God became a creature, became one of us.  This is Christ, the Lord.  And Christ, through the Paschal Mystery, gives the Holy Spirit to every human creature – freely gives the Spirit of the living God to all of us.

(But, do we receive?)  We are called to receive the Spirit, not merely with our ears or our eyes in spoken or in written words, but with our hearts.  Not so that we may merely “like” God’s Word, but so that we may truly love God’s Word and embrace the Divine Word in the deepest core of our beings, into the quiet sanctuary within ourselves, the sacred dwelling place that is the true heart of our lives.  Open to the Spirit of God, we are able to deeply understand truth and be transformed by truth: the truth of eternity, the truth of Creation, the truth of ourselves created, through the Word, in the image of God to know, love, and serve God in the fullness of truth.  We deeply understand, we know, not by grasping a concept, but by being in communion with God’s Word dwelling in our hearts.  Dwelling – not written, but living and breathing in us and through us.

God’s Word is given to every human being through the Holy Spirit – but not all of us willingly open ourselves to receive… for we can close ourselves in on ourselves through the self-centeredness of sin and, being hardhearted, fail to live truth, fail to live in the fullness of communion with God.  God’s Word Incarnate gives Himself, body, blood, soul and divinity, for every human being to save every human being from this failure.  In assuming our human nature, the Word Incarnate, Christ, the Lord, takes the lethal poison of our sins into His own flesh nailed onto the Cross.  God tastes death… pouring forth Divine Grace and sanctification in self-giving love.  And when the Incarnate Word rises from the dead, He raises all of us up with Him, our antidote of mercy, sharing His eternal life with us – when we willingly share our lives with Him and open our hearts to Him.  If we accept the Divine Word and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us, then we become testimonies to God, proof of holiness, not written with ink or carved into stone, but living and breathing in, with, and through us.  From the sacred abode of our hearts, where we dwell together alone with God, to all of Creation and every one of our fellow human beings – we send forth the Word of God: Love.

And, so, I say that even if someone has never read or heard the words of the Bible – even if someone has never been properly introduced to Jesus Christ – that someone can still know the Divine Word, Who is Truth, Who is Love, Who is God in Whose image every human is created.  Open to the Spirit of the living God, every person, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, Pagan, Hindu, Buddhist, or Sikh, can be faithful to the creating Divine Word, living lives of self-giving love, striving for truth, reflecting God into the world.  And if those who have not been properly introduced to Christ encounter Him through someone who has been saved into fullness by receiving Him fully, then the growing intimacy with the Divine Word Incarnate that they will experience will become the deepest blessing, the most sacred understanding, the fullest salvation – the fulfillment of their lives.

May I , in the sacred dwelling place of my heart, marry with the Word and bear forth the fruit of Divine Love so that all the world may also deeply know and love the Divine Incarnate One.

I am an epistle…

Christina Chase