Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christ for All

We often don't ask of Christ at all, which is the great mystery of generosity and humility. 

Christ offers all, but to receive is to humble ourselves--even to destroy ourselves. 

A gift presumes. To acknowledge generosity is to make ourselves subject to the giver; "thank you" is at odds with "I could have got along very well on my own, I didn't need your generosity." 

The burden of Christ's sacrifice is heavy. Not even the burden of carrying one's own cross could be so heavy as to accept that Christ gave everything for us. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

strange the plain things are

Incarnation is finitude, limitation. 

Especially for God. 

I think of Philippians 2—"though [Christ] was in the form of God, [He] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself"—or of John 1—"the Word became flesh and dwelt among us"—with both "dwell" and "among us" speaking of not only temporal and physical limitation, but humility and empathy.

That kind of limitation was what I was thinking about when I first started thinking about parenthood and incarnation. In the weeks since Eva was born, I have felt limited, even reduced. She doesn't need (for the most part) my intellect or my accomplishments or my sense of humor. She doesn't need for me to brush my hair. She needs milk, and warmth, and someone to change her diaper. Like God, I thought, I have humbled myself and accepted these limitations. I felt validated, even while reading Fisher's article.

Now it is true that the fact of the Incarnation does lend sanctity and dignity to these things we do in our bodies. Giving milk to my baby is not irrelevant; it is not beneath me or detached from the rest of God's design for me. His plans for me are plans for this body, and the fact that it is a female body, now a mother's body, is an intentional detail in that plan. 

God did not merely work out a cosmic transaction for our salvation. He came and inhabited a body, joining with Adam and all of us in all of the weakness and fragility of human life, joining with us in life and death.

So, yes, the Incarnation does imbue embodied activity with a certain type of sanctity.

But Jesus came as the baby.

What Eva needs from me feels limiting to me, but the truth is that I can leave her on the bed and go downstairs and wash the dishes if I really want to. I can even leave her alone in the house and take out the trash. I can put her in the carseat and drag her along with me to get things done. Or I could ignore her altogether.

Eva can't do any of those things. She is truly helpless. She fully relies on us for everything. She cries for milk and smiles when she knows it is coming. An hour later, she does it again. She is needy, and she doesn't resent that neediness.

It was a mistake to focus on how much my powers were limited as I cared for Eva. Things like the thrush or a really bad night remind me that I am just as helpless when it comes to the basic things as I am when functioning at [what I perceive is] my full capacity. 

To see myself as the baby helps me to focus on God's care and provision instead of on my hardship or humiliation. This is where my mind needs to be.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Advent and Memory

Christ is eternal, the lord not just of earth and stars and flesh and spirit, but even of time itself.

Is incarnation a casting off or a giving up, or is it a taking on? A mantle of temporality? Does the eternal lord of heaven have memory if he is at all times and all places unchanging?

Flesh is memory. We bear the effects and the results of every moment we are alive. Even the dead remember their death in their flesh.

If incarnation is a taking on a history, resurrection is... a restoration? A summation of all that is into an unchanging moment? Do Christ's scars bear eternal testimony to his sacrifice, or have they been transformed after his ascension?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Advent thoughts

MLE read me a piece about advent and the presence of Christ yesterday, and I've been pondering. Not as much about advent itself, or about the distinction between advent and the birth-event, but about incarnation.

We die.
Christ came to die.

We have spent so much time, so much energy, so much of our own lives (not to mention the lives of others) tying to escape death; Christ came to die.

We have moved beyond escaping death, and we now try to prolong life--resuscitation is only the beginning. "Trans-humanity" is attempting to wield genetic control over life, to undo the designs that cause decay and dysfunction as we age.
I wonder, though, if the "eternity" that is being sought here isn't even more 'static' (or just plain boring) than the harp-playing in the clouds depicted by cartoonists.

But if death is an awfully big adventure, what of the return home? Christ came to die, and dreaded that death, and sought to escape it, but in the end accepted it--but was is it to die knowing the next part of the story? Resurrection is not simply a return home from war...

Infancy seems so far from death, but this perspective is perhaps a new one: infant mortality is infinitesimal compared to what it was a century ago. The vulnerability, though, of infancy is unchanged. Babies cry out in pain hopelessly, helplessly. So much of life is an adaptation to this state--shifting our helplessness to a delicate balance of what problems we can overcome and which we simply must avoid. But flesh is vulnerable, no matter what.