Saturday, December 25, 2010

O' Sublime Humility! O' Humble Sublimity! God Comes to Embrace the Totality of The Human Condition!

"Fall on your knees! O' hear, the Angel voices! O' night divine! O' night, when Christ was born."

St. Francis of Assisi, when reflecting on the "self-emptying" love of Christ in the Eucharist, used to exclaim, "O' sublime humility, O' humble sublimity!" The poetic combination of these words was Francis' beautiful and unique way of articulating his deep reverence and awe at the mystery of God's closeness to us in the basic, rudimentary, very unassuming elements of bread and wine (a sacramental reminder of how close God wishes to be in all that makes up our lives).

What is it that we celebrate at Christmas time? The above words from "O Holy Night" might give the false impression that we celebrate the majesty, power, glory, and victory of God. However, Francis' words come much closer to the truth of the spirit of Christmas: far from celebrating God's greatness and glory, we "fall on our knees" and stand in awe at the sight of the 'illimitable' God become limitable by taking on the whole of what it means to be a creature and to be human. The Incarnation of God in Jesus is a "paradigm" shattering event! Prior to God becoming human in Jesus, few in the Greco, Roman, Judeo, Mediterranean world would have spoke of God becoming subject to all that makes for creaturely and human existence. After the birth of Jesus, his life, ministry, passion, death, and Resurrection, people of faith can rightly speak of the suffering of God and even God being subject to the ineptitude and failure that is so often a part of human striving (remembering that Jesus died accursed prior to being raised).

Such a monumental shift in the human understanding of who God is through the "Christ event", implies a change as well in "how" God is to be most profoundly revealed and encountered. The birth of Christ that we celebrate at Christmas means that God will be "found" when person's embrace the totality of what it means to be human, which includes, but is not limited to: vulnerability, openness, receptivity, responsiveness, depth of connectedness and relatedness with all creatures and other persons, especially the needy, and, yes, even ineptitude and failure at times. Most profoundly, however, is that God is to be encountered in the human resolve to love both when that love is well-received and even when that love is spurned, rejected, refused, or lost. When persons struggle against despair and strive to love through all the events of life in faith and hope, precisely "there" Christ is born anew in our lives and our world. Pat, TOR