Posts Tagged With: Incarnation

Wonder At What Tender Flesh Receives

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Amazement should mark our every inhalation – amazement that we live,  that love and thought and breath find home in our flesh!  Amazement too that there is a distinct “I” who is the self who is invited to amazement – an “I” who is simultaneously on the journey, and who is observer, tactician, poet/philosopher, and chronicler of the way traveled.

The God-Creator of all the universe inhabits our very being.  How is it possible that someOne larger than is imaginable is integrally woven into our most intimate being’s fiber?  We should just explode, in our vulnerability!  And yet, it seems, it is vulnerability and weakness and empty openness that most draws God’s artful presence and play which shapes and shatters and sends us.

Fragile flesh is holy, the Incarnation tells us so.  I came across this translation of a piece from St. Irenaus, which prompted my musing.  I hope the poetry hints for you at some of the truth which should send all of us into wonder, and tutor our thinking, and foster wisdom.

The tender flesh itself
   will be found one day
   — quite surprisingly —
   to be capable of receiving,
and, yes,
   capable of embracing
the searing energies of God.
   Go figure. Fear not.
For even at its beginning
   the humble clay received
God’s art, whereby
   one part became the eye,
another the ear, and yet
   another the impetuous hand.
Therefore, the flesh
   is not to be excluded
from the wisdom and the power
   that now and ever animates
all things.  His life-giving
   agency is made perfect,
we are told, in weakness —
   made perfect in the flesh.

– St. Irenaus (c.125 – c.210),
adapted and translated by Scott Cairn in Love’s Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life

Categories: General, Poetry | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Why Are We Not Alive With Joy?

I’m finishing these days Madeleine L’Engle’s Bright Evening Star: Mystery of Incarnation.  Yes, I KNOW we’re out of the Christmas season and into Ordinary Time.  Ah…. but of course the Incarnation makes Ordinary Time utterly Extraordinary!

These few paragraphs went past my eyes today, and I really wanted you to see them.  May they feed your amazement and bring you joy!

spitzer-saggitarius-glorius-blue-space-800“Jesus is the Son of the One who created the stars in their courses, and yet, as Christ, he was Creator of the stars and without him was not anything made that was made.  

We will never understand with our finite minds that, yes! he shouted the magnificence of the universe into being, and yet, as Jesus, he left this fiery home and came to our little blue planet as an ordinary mortal.

Everything is more than it seems, and we get occasional glimpses, revelations, but when we try to analyze and explain them we lose them.  

Angels were his chariots, and he rode upon the wings of the cherubim, and he is further away from us than galaxies billions of light years away, and he is as close to us as the beating of our own hearts.

He is with us because of a love beyond our comprehension, and it is only through our own love that we are able to know him at all.  And it isn’t even our own love; it is Jesus’ love, expressed through us.

So what has happened to us?

Why are we not alive with joy?”

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Child’s First Cry Came Like a Bell: L’Engle’s Further Words on Mary

Happy New Year, readers and friends!  May 2014 bring you much joy.

It must be obvious by now that I value Madeleine L’Engle, as friend and wordsmith.

In my young adulthood, I knew she gave writers’ workshops in the summer at Wheaton College in Illinois.  I wanted “someday” to go.  I did not make the “someday”, sadly.  Still, I’ve felt – from childhood on – tutored by her characters, her art, her own journey in life and writing in many ways.  She was a purveyor of intuited truth to the child who munched happily on A Wrinkle in Time, and every subsequent novel.  (I’m thinking of rereading them all in 2014… anyone with me?   And then on to all her other books!)  A high school student gifted me with Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, which wound its way into both my masters and doctoral theses, and a theology of ministry too!  Though we never met in the flesh, I feel I’ve met L’Engle in other ways (perhaps in a kything communion, oh Wrinkle lovers?).  There are many dear writers like that for me – C.S. Lewis comes immediately to mind, with Tolkien and MacDonald, poets, and saints and mystics.  I hope that’s true for you as well.

So, on this day that celebrates Mary as God-Bearer, Mother, Theotokos, solemnly – it seemed fitting to offer you this three pronged reflection on Mary from L’Engle.  The last I shared with you was Young Mary, glimpsing her just past the Annunciation.  Here Madeleine again explores the inner experience of Mary, within the context of the Incarnation-Christmas Mystery.  Appropriately, the third poem below has much to do with Joseph, who sees too little ink, methinks.

I invite you to add a comment after your reading, simply sharing a line/a phrase/a word that speaks to you from all the ones below.  We have a right to hear the Spirit speaking in the context of community, so share a whispering or breeze or gust that blows past you, in a repeated word or three or four from her text, would you?

May Mary and Joseph accompany and guide you to the places you need to be this year to better encounter the Word in flesh.

 

Three Songs Of Mary

1. O Simplicitas

An angel came to me
and I was unprepared
to be what God was using.
Mother I was to be.
A moment I despaired,
thought briefly of refusing.
The angel knew I heard.
according to God’s Word
I bowed to this strange choosing.

A palace should have been
the birthplace of a king
(I had no way of knowing).
We went to Bethlehem;
it was so strange a thing.
The wind was cold, and blowing,
my cloak was old, and thin.
They turned us from the inn;
the town was overflowing.

God’s Word, a child so small
who still must learn to speak
lay in humiliation.
Joseph stood, strong and tall.
The beasts were warm and meek
and moved in hesitation.
The Child born in a stall?
I understood it: all.
Kings came in adoration.

Perhaps it was absurd;
a stable set apart,
the sleeping cattle lowing;
and the incarnate Word
resting against my heart.
My joy was overflowing.
The shepherds came, adored
the folly of the Lord,
wiser than all men’s knowing.

 

2. O Oriens

O come, O come Emmanuel
within this fragile vessel here to dwell.
O Child conceived by heaven’s power
give me thy strength: it is the hour.SAMSUNG

O come, thou Wisdom form on high;
like any babe at life you cry;
for me, like any mother, birth
Was hard, O light of earth.

O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
whose birth came hastily at night,
born in a stable, in blood and pain
is this the king who comes to reign?

O come, thou Rod of Jesse’s stem,
the stars will be thy diadem.
How can the infinite finite be?
Why choose, child, to be born of me?

O come, thou key of David, come,
open the door to my heart-home.
I cannot love thee as a king –
so fragile and so small a thing.

O come, thou Dayspring from on high:
I saw the signs that marked the sky.
I heard the beat of angels’ wings
I saw the shepherds and the kings.

O come, Desire of nations, be
simply a human child to me.
Let me not weep that you are born.
The night is gone. Now gleams the morn.

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel,
God’s Son, God’s Self, with us to dwell.

3. O Sapientia

It was from Joseph first I learned
of love. Like me he was dismayed.
How easily he could have turned
me from his house; but, unafraid,
he put me not away from him
(O God-sent angel, pray for him).
Thus through his love was Love obeyed.

The Child’s first cry came like a bell:
God’s Word aloud, God’s Word in deed.
The angel spoke: so it befell,
and Joseph with me in my need.
O Child whose father came from heaven,
to you another gift was given,
your earthly father chosen well.

With Joseph I was always warmed
and cherished. Even in the stable
I knew that I would not be harmed.
And, thou above the angels swarmed,
man’s love it was that made me able
to bear God’s love, wild, formidable,
to bear God’s will, through me performed.

Categories: Christmas, Mary of Nazareth, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Of Bees, Honeyed Feet and Incarnation: Mechthild of Magdeburg

Of all that God has shown meTarrito
I can speak just the smallest word,
Not more than a honey bee
Takes on her foot
From an overspilling jar.

– Mechthild of Magdeburg

— so beautiful, yes?  take it in!  it seems to me these days that any words that we can say about what is essential are really quite small —

We are poor and little, weak and clueless.  Love and truth, life and death, sickness and health, growth and decline, sadness and joy, conflict and peace, violence and tenderness – even what is happening in our own minds and hearts; so little about these things comes into sharp focus for us.  We have no answers, small understanding, and come to wisdom slowly.  Can we smile at this?

Of course, we are wondrous.  I haven’t forgotten.  But we (and certainly I) don’t dwell with the wondrous enough.  We are distracted by what we do not know, ways we have not done or been something we intuit is extremely important (though our words fail here too), or who we have not yet, or may not ever, become.  We seek answers.  We remember suffering and ask questions.  We seek identity and home.

We do not know.  We experience longing, and sometimes deep pain.  We are not — something — our hearts tell us.  (Thank God that “God is greater than our hearts”!  1 John 3:20).  Yet perhaps our smallness and the way we experience life within our very limitation is wonder too.  (I know – it doesn’t feel wondrous sometimes! But don’t the words sound as if there’s something to them?  Hmm…)

Mechthild’s bee reminds us of who we are.  It’s beautiful really.  This small honey bee’s foot finds sweet stickiness in an overflowing abundance.  We buzz about a world of overflowing honey jars.  We might stop here.  Our view, she seems to say, is so small – our capacity infinitesimal.  But listen to Mechthild’s premise and find new hope in knowing that you and I are amazing.

Of all that God has shown me…  We are ones who wake into life learning that we are constantly addressed and “shown things” by the Creator of all that is!  This is the One who somehow is and was before all things (duh… grasp that one with your brain!), who brought all into being and intends our freedom and ability to learn and love.  We wake up already deeply in a relationship that is our truest home; a relationship we did not initiate, could not earn, and are invited to remain in always and forever.  Does that not make us amazing? We fascinate the Creator of the smallest quarks and the largest galaxies, who delights in showing us things and being with us!  Augustine spoke of humans as having capax dei… a capacity for God.  We are made that way – hard wired.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to really believe that we have the capacity to delight God by simply receiving what God would show us, what God would give.

And God shows us much, each day, each moment.

If we cultivate (through REPEATED practice!) that Advent wakefulness December reminded us of as a way of living, we might find a million’s million grams of ‘honey’ in which our feet are stuck, and through which God speaks to us.  Will we learn to listen to the Creator’s love-talk?

As I write, these “small” things surround me, and I believe “show” me something:  music’s beauty, the skill and passion of the harpist, the oft-forgotten wonder of my ears and the way they take in sound like fingers take in texture or my palate takes in flavor, the wonder of how hands and thumbs and muscles and holding work (as my left thumb and wrist speak to me in ache from a fall), the way vegetables actually feel good as you eat them, the warmth of heart brought by a quick gaze at a sleeping crazy-beloved dog, the essence of connection and longing for presence found in family members’ smiles and eyes on pictures on the wall, the flickering self-giving light of a candle, the hand stitched gift that says ‘I know and love you’, the diversity of place and people I’ve visited in playful koala and moose images, the delight in coffee’s smell and taste, the wonder of recorded words in books and the people whose stories and gifts gave them birth.  These are just a few of the wonders within 6 feet of where I sit.  Even within that range I cannot adequately capture all of what God shows me! Take a few moments.  What’s around you?  If you listen, is God showing you some small thing through the honey on your foot in this moment?  We stand sticky in wonders and mystery all the time!

I have wondered why I/why we then spend so much energy anxious or upset about what we cannot understand or do not know.  Why are we surprised when we are just bee-size?  Why does it pain us so not to find answers, wrap up what we consider essential questions, or to simply walk our days in unknowing, with a bit of ongoing stumbling more characteristic than steady gait when we walk around the larger questions? I do not mean we are not explorers of lands and seas, of space, of body and spirit, of all that our curiosity draws us to learn of, or that human or creation’s need draws us to discover.  I do not argue with our unfolding knowledge, with study, with the sketches we make of what is important that become science texts or symphonies, masterpieces or family traditions.

SAMSUNGBut we are those who often experience life as ones who see “tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity”.*  We can only speak just the smallest word, Mechthild tells us, of what we are shown, even of what we experience.  Is that awful?  We seem to think so.  Difficult, yes, of course; especially when we speak of loss or death or isolation or violence or other hard things.  But our analyzing endlessly or “parking in the circle” of difficult or the excruciatingly painful will not create an okay-ness if we put in enough time or effort!  Instead, we run the risk of forgetting to notice the other honey – the amazing and wondrous. And we will forget the merits of our littleness.

You and I must learn to live and thrive in a place of acceptance and celebration of the limits and wonders of being human.

Okay.  What do we know?  Not much.  What can we hold onto in awareness? Only the smallest fraction, like Mechthild’s bee’s honeyed foot. What if the Incarnation speaks to how to be with this?  It does!  Do we not believe Jesus shows us how to live human life as it can be lived?

At Christmas, we remember that we are not only people addressed by God everyday and over history, shown all kinds of wonders.  Mechthild is correct that we are only able to say the smallest word about life, but God’s Word came to us – containing every word and hope.  And the Creator of All chose to enter the very reality of unknowing and foggy perceiving we resist – this soil and sod that is the stuff of being human. And by so joining it, graced it fully.  Into the middle of the not knowing, this fog of understanding where clarity is an exception in our experience: THIS is the very reality that God chose to enter.  The One who is somehow Three, who existed before the cosmos and creation, chose to fully enter the flesh-ly story of a people and a world in one corner of one planet in one womb as one child with one human lifetime.  No wonder we speak of the Word leaping down from the heavens! What a leap!  God entering such limits!  Unbelievable!

Or is it?  Doesn’t such entering in tell us something about who God has always been, well before that holy night we sing about on Christmas Eve?  We miss the fact that Incarnation says something about power. Power is not control.  It is not insight.  It is not understanding and identifying and categorizing and figuring all out. Real power – true power – is love.  It is Love which leaps and enters and is WITH.  (It’s Trinity too – for that’s the leaping love of the Three which makes them One in ongoing self-giving.)  The One Who Loves Us All is this very Love, in kind and content. This is the most amazing power you and I can ever encounter.  In a way, it’s a no-brainer.  The Christmas Story in Luke is all about persons who don’t have all (or much) in their control.  The scene looks out of whack;  a babe in an animal’s feed trough, a woman who said yes to an angel when ‘how’ was never answered, a man who welcomed a pregnant bride into his life and heart with little sensical explanation.  Control and understanding are not the point, no matter that we might want to make it so sometimes.  Relationship and being with and delight and being who we are in this love — every day and moment — that’s the point.

God leaps in love.  God is a leap in love.  This is what we mean when some say “God is mission”.  God must go out in love.  And so must we. It’s who God is, not what God does.  It’s who we are, not what we do.

The most powerful achievements in our lives have little do with understanding all the turns and wherefores in our own or others’ journeys, or even affecting them.  Our power lies in awareness and acceptance of the love story we are created a part of, and a Love embracing us and sending us leaping out to love.  As Pope Francis has often repeated this season, that reaching out should particularly be to the poor.  God came to us, poor small honeybees so loved by God and able to give God delight.  And our poverty is what God can fill.  We who would join the Incarnation mystery by bringing Christ to birth in our world and lives must also go where love goes… it leaps to those with greatest emptiness and need.  We are those who have received.  We are those who must also leap.

So, let’s worry less about getting answers to all life’s questions.  Let’s live in the relationship where God shows us many things.  Let us embrace our capax dei, the gift that is our capacity for God, hard-wired in by the Creator.  Let’s value one another – especially those in need or pain – with the same leaping love God models for us in Jesus’ coming.  Let us give up trying to understand the Incarnation, and live its mystery by embodying an embrace of humanness that the Creator chose to show us in Christ.  Let us glance at the babe, and learn from the young family how to survive and thrive in unknowing, in following, in faithfulness.

SAMSUNGI am better able to walk in this mystery as I listen to the smallest words of others about this journey we are all on.  Mechthild, Madeleine, Maura, Jessica — these poets help me listen and learn.  They hearten me, as they learn and share what God has shown them.  I hope they invite you to attention to what God shows you too this day.  Whatever that may be, it is good.  Trust that, with me.  Don’t worry that you don’t get the whole honey-pot…. or a few of them.  Enjoy, with God, the bit of honey on your foot this day.  And I will too, with you!  BbbbuuuuuuZZZZZzzzzzzzzz!

* The source of this image is Annie Dillard in The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (see ABOUT THE BLOG). There she describes the experience of being human very much like the experience of walking in the fog. We see “tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity”.

Categories: Christmas, General, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Presence to the Mystery in the Manger: Sister Maura Eichner, SSND

Another day, another way to be with the Mystery in the manger, and some words and wisdom offered (which will continue through Epiphany, Jan. 5th, 2014).

The call to presence these days invites us to open our own eyes and heart to this Child and his family, to the visitors and travelers, to song and embrace, to all this season in holy night and early days, in incarnation flesh, and vulnerability holds.  It asks us to hearken to this Word, this Proclamation, this Love, definitively present and spoken directly to our world, to creation, and to each of us each and all of us.

sister maura eichnerStill, these gifts from others may help us travel the distance into our own silence to encounter.  So, shhhh… let us… See. Listen. Treasure. Ponder. Hold and be held. And then be still. And perhaps be moved to worship. To song. To poetry. To service. To sharing. I’ll meet you there.  Rejoicing!

Today, find two poem selections from Sister Maura Eichner, SSND (School Sister of Notre Dame). I was fortunate enough to have Sister Maura as an undergrad professor, after having dined on her poetry in adolescence and early young adulthood.

SAMSUNG

Atonal Carol for the
Present Moment

Son of God
you took life
from a gentle girl
the Jewish wife

of Joseph. You
also wholly took
our laughter, grief,
ironies and jokes.

Take us, too,
again, again,
on this lonely planet
world of men.

Orbit our veins,
look out our eyes,
be a now
surprise! surprise!

Like that human girl
who cradled you,
Son of Man,
we need you.

 

Love Travels Far

Love travels far
To be home.
Carols echo –
“Come, O come. . . .”

God is where
He chose to be –
Living in you,
Living in me.

Categories: Christmas, General, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Being with the Mystery in the Manger: “First Coming” by Madeleine L’Engle

SAMSUNGThese days call for ways to be with the Mystery in the manger, and you’ll find here some words and wisdom (through Epiphany, Jan. 5th, 2014).

This call to presence invites us to open our own eyes and heart to this Child and his family, to the visitors and travelers, to song and embrace, to all this season in holy night and early days, in incarnation flesh, and vulnerability holds.  It asks us to harken to this Word, this Proclamation, this Love, definitively present and spoken directly to our world, to creation, and to each of us each and all of us.

Still, these gifts offered here from others’ reflecting may help us travel the distance into our own silence to encounter.  So, shhhh… let us… See. Listen. Treasure. Ponder. Hold and be held. And then be still. And perhaps be moved to worship. To song. To poetry. To service. To sharing. I’ll meet you there.  Rejoicing!

For our initial reflection then, a poem from Madeleine L’Engle, found in A Cry Like a Bell.

First Coming 

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

– Madeleine L’Engle

Categories: Christmas, General, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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