On the Necessity of the Incarnation — Irenaeus

31.So then He united man with God, and established a community of union 88 between God and man; since we could not in any other way participate in incorruption, save by His coming among us. For so long as incorruption was invisible and unrevealed, it helped us not at all: therefore it became visible,89 that in all respects we might participate in the reception of incorruption. And, because in the original formation of Adam all of us were tied and bound up with death through his disobedience, it was right that through the obedience of Him who was made man for us we should be released from death: and because death reigned over the flesh, it was right that through the flesh it should lose its force and let man go free from its oppression. So the Word was made flesh,90 that, through that very flesh which sin had ruled and dominated, it should lose its force and be no longer in us. And therefore our Lord took that same original formation as (His) entry into flesh, so that He might draw near and contend on behalf of the fathers, and conquer by Adam that which by Adam had stricken us down.

32.Whence then is the substance of the first-formed (man)? From the Will and the Wisdom |99of God, and from the virgin earth.91 For God had not sent rain, the Scripture says, upon the earth, before man was made; and there was no man to till the earth.92 From this, then, whilst it was still virgin, God took dust of the earth and formed the man, the beginning of mankind. So then the Lord, summing up afresh this man, took the same dispensation of entry into flesh, being born from the Virgin by the Will and the Wisdom of God; that He also should show forth the likeness of Adam’s entry into flesh,and there should be that which was written in the beginning, man after the image and likeness of God.93

33.And just as through a disobedient virgin man was stricken down and fell into death, so through the Virgin who was obedient to the Word of God man was reanimated and received life.94 For the Lord came to seek again the sheep that was lost;95 and man it was that was lost: and for this cause there was not made some other formation, but in that same which had its descent from Adam He preserved the likeness of the (first) formation.96 For it was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin.97

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  1. For this double rendering see above c. 6.
  2. Cf. 2 Tim. i. 10: …
  3. John i. 14.
  4. Almost the same words are here used as in III, xxx. I.: … Cf. III, xix. 6: also Ephraim’s Commentary on the Diatessaron (Moesinger, p. 21): “In Virginis conceptione disce quod qui sine conjugio Adamum ex virginea terra protulit, is etiam Adamum secundum in utero virginis formaverit.” Cf. also Tertullian, De carne Christi, 17; Firmicus Maternus, De errore prof. relig., 25.
  5. Gen. ii. 5.
  6. Gen. i. 26.
  7. The same parallel is worked out in III, xxxii. 1, and V, xix. 1. It is found earlier in Justin Martyr (Dial. 100), and later in Tertullian (De carne Chr. 17).
  8. Irenaeus is fond of referring to the sheep that was lost: see III, xx. 3, xxxii. 2, xxxvii. I; V, xii. 3, xv. 2.
  9. See above, c. 32.
  10. Cf. I Cor. xv. 53.

“Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching,” 31-33, by Irenaeus

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Partakers of the Divine Nature

At Christmas we celebrate the saving mystery of the Incarnation.

The Nativity of Christ is about the God who created the world becoming incarnate, while the foundations of the Earth are shaken. The Nativity of Christ is about Theosis, whereby we are deified, and by His grace, share in His Divinity, just as He has joined Himself with our humanity. (Abbot Tryphon, All-Merciful Savior Monastery)

God partook of our nature that we might partake of His nature by grace.

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1 Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world… (2 Peter 1.1-4 NKJV)

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God our Father,
our human nature is the wonderful work of your hands,
made still more wonderful by your work of redemption.
Your Son took to himself our manhood:
grant us a share in the godhead of Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen. Source

The Wonder-filled Incarnation

And that was that the Word of God Himself, Who is before all worlds, the Invisible, the Incomprehensible, the Bodiless, the Beginning of beginning, the Light of Light, the Source of Life and Immortality, the Image of the Archetype, the Immovable Seal, the Unchangeable Image, the Father’s Definition and Word, came to His own Image, and took on Him Flesh for the sake of our flesh, and mingled Himself with an intelligent soul for my soul’s sake, purifying like by like; and in all points except sin was made Man; conceived by the Virgin, who first in body and soul was purified by the Holy Ghost, for it was needful both That Child-bearing should be honoured and that Virginity should receive a higher honour. He came forth then, as God, with That which He had assumed; one Person in two natures, flesh and Spirit, of which the latter deified the former. O new commingling; O strange conjunction! The Self-existent comes into Being, the Uncreated is created, That which cannot be contained is contained by the intervention of an intellectual soul mediating between the Deity and the corporeity of the flesh. And He who gives riches becomes poor; for He assumes the poverty of my flesh, that I may assume the riches of His Godhead. He that is full empties Himself; for He empties Himself of His Glory for a short while, that I may have a share in His Fulness. What is the riches of His Goodness? What is this mystery that is around me? I had a share in the Image and I did not keep it; He partakes of my flesh that He may both save the Image and make the flesh immortal. He communicates a Second Communion, far more marvellous than the first, inasmuch as then He imparted the better nature, but now He Himself assumes the worse. This is more godlike than the former action; this is loftier in the eyes of all men of understanding…Is it not evident that the Father accepts Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him; but on account of the Incarnation, and becauseHumanity must be sanctified by the Humanity of God, that He might deliver us Himself, and overcome the tyrant, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also arranged this to the honour of the Father, Whom it is manifest that He obeysin all things? So much we have said of Christ; the greater part of what we might say shall be reverenced with silence. St. Gregory of Nazianzen, Oration 45

A Wonder-full Wonder

“6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. 9 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. 11 He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” (John 1.6-14)

“Although it may appear outwardly that we make our way toward God, the joyful and wonderful truth is that it is God who comes to us.”  Matthew the Poor

The Core Significance of the Fulfillment in the Incarnation

Why the Nativity? Why the Incarnation? Here is what we have believed from the beginning regarding these questions.

“The Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.” Irenaeus (c. 130-200), Against Heresies, Book 5, Preface

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“The Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God.” St. Clement of Alexandria (150-215), Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter I

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“Therefore He was not man, and then became God, but He was God, and then became man, and that to deify us.” St. Athanasius (296-373), Against the Arians, Discourse I, Paragraph 39

“For He was made man that we might be made God.” St. Athanasius (296-373), On the Incarnation, Section 54

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“For just as He in Himself assimilated His own human nature to the power of the Godhead, being a part of the common nature, but not being subject to the inclination to sin which is in that nature (for it says: “He did no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth), so, also, will He lead each person to union with the Godhead if they do nothing unworthy of union with the Divine.” St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-395), On Christian Perfection

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“That which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved. If only half Adam fell, then that which Christ assumes and saves may be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole nature of Him that was begotten, and so be saved as a whole.” St. Gregory of Nazianzus (321-390), Epistle 101

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“This Logos the Father in the latter days sent forth, no longer to speak by a prophet, and not wishing that the Word, being obscurely proclaimed, should be made the subject of mere conjecture, but that He should be manifested, so that we could see Him with our own eyes. This Logos, I say, the Father sent forth, in order that the world, on beholding Him, might reverence Him who was delivering precepts not by the person of prophets, nor terrifying the soul by an angel, but who was Himself—He that had spoken—corporally present amongst us. This Logos we know to have received a body from a virgin, and to have remodelled the old man by a new creation. And we believe the Logos to have passed through every period in this life, in order that He Himself might serve as a law for every age, and that, by being present (amongst) us, He might exhibit His own manhood as an aim for all men. And that by Himself in person He might prove that God made nothing evil, and that man possesses the capacity of self-determination, inasmuch as he is able to will and not to will, and is endued with power to do both.  This Man we know to have been made out of the compound of our humanity. For if He were not of the same nature with ourselves, in vain does He ordain that we should imitate the Teacher. For if that Man happened to be of a different substance from us, why does He lay injunctions similar to those He has received on myself, who am born weak; and how is this the act of one that is good and just? In order, however, that He might not be supposed to be different from us, He even underwent toil, and was willing to endure hunger, and did not refuse to feel thirst, and sunk into the quietude of slumber. He did not protest against His Passion, but became obedient unto death, and manifested His resurrection. Now in all these acts He offered up, as the first-fruits, His own manhood, in order that thou, when thou art in tribulation, mayest not be disheartened, but, confessing thyself to be a man (of like nature with the Redeemer), mayest dwell in expectation of also receiving what the Father has granted unto this Son.” Saint Hippolytus of Rome (?-c.235), The Refutation of all the heresies, Book 10, Chapter 29

The Coming of the Lord – Fulfillment

It is easier to think about the gospel and everything about it in terms of progress. It is more challenging, and thus more transformative, to think of it in terms of fulfillment.

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1.14)

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5.17-20)

“The Law does not exist, rules and God’s commandments do not exist for man to serve them. But the law and rules exist so that they might serve man, us. And so the Lord didn’t come to destroy the law and rules, but to fulfill them, that is, to give them meaning and fulfillment. For if rules and the law are the goal in and of themselves, then man becomes a frustrated and unhappy person, whose freedom and right to choose is restricted.  The law exists as an aid so that love would develop within us, that virtues develop, that we might do that which is good and in line with God’s will. The Lord shows us that love is above everything else. When love is in question and the need for us to do good to our neighbor, to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of Christ, then laws and rules do not exist which could or should constrain us. After all, the Lord Himself comes to this world against all the laws of nature in order to change the same. He went to the Cross and His suffering completely innocent. He didn’t ask for justice to come to His aid, He didn’t call the Law to His aid, but He went above and beyond that in order to witness and confirm love, to His very crucifixion.” excerpted from a homily on December 14, 2014 of Metropolitan Porfirije.

Pointing and Embodying

“…God creates this universe precisely in order to invite other persons into the relational life of the Trinity. God’s purpose or intention of inviting each person into the relational life of the Trinity is not episodic, occurring periodically in each person’s life. God is always acting to bring about this intention.

Another way of making the same point is to say that God is always in conscious relationship with each one of us as our creator, our sustainer, dear father or dear mother, our brother, our savior, the Spirit who dwells in our hearts. Ignatius [of Loyola] presupposes that at every moment of our existence God is communicating to us who God is, is trying to draw us into an awareness, a consciousness of the reality of who we are in God’s sight. Whether we are aware of it or not, at every moment of our existence we are encountering God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who is trying to catch our attention, trying to draw us into a reciprocal conscious relationship.”

Source: Finding God in All Things, by William Barry SJ, Ave Maria Press, 2009

Unceasing Incarnation – Struggling to Walk In Our Vocation as Theotokos and Bethlehem

During the “reflecting on the writings of the saints” portion of my quiet time this morning I was reading today’s reflection from the Passionists website and realized that, in the Roman Catholic Church, today is the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. The reflection, which can be found here, includes this statement:

From very early in the life of the Church Christians have believed that Jesus, who is the Christ, is fully human and fully divine. This was formally defined as a doctrine of the faith during the 3rd Ecumenical Council at Ephesus in the year 431. The Council expressed this belief by giving Mary the Greek title Theotokos, which means: The-One-Who-Gives-Birth-To-God! In English translation this is frequently expressed as: “The Mother of God” or “The God Bearer”.

Christmas is proleptic. It draws us forward ever more deeply and completely into itself – His Way, Truth and Life. Our life, if it is a Christmas life, is not our own and yet it becomes truly ours by being a Christmas life. We gain our life by letting go of “my” life.

It is appropriate, as we journey through Christmas, to begin to let the other shoe drop, and ask, “If Christ is born of Mary then in what way is His dynamic incarnation – unceasingly being born – occurring now?”

So, the fruitful journey of addressing the question resulted in what follows. Perhaps it will be beneficial as you struggle with that same Christmas question.

I came across this quote, somewhere, that attributes to Meister Eckhart these words,

What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the Son of God 1400 years ago, and I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my time and in my culture?  We are all meant to be mothers of God.  God is always needing to be born.

So, the Theotokos is the icon of the disciple as “Christ-bearer.” This message is the whole point of the great Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

O Little Town of Bethlehem
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight…

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today…
(Phillips Brooks)

I am the Christ-bearer. My life is the address where those who are being invited to come and see the incarnate Christ show up. I am Bethlehem.

That led me to these two quotes from Meister Eckhart:

God enters into you with all that is his, as far as you have stripped yourself of yourself in all things. It is here that you should begin, whatever the cost, for it is here that you will find true peace, and nowhere else. Source

A man should shine with the divine Presence without having to work at it… One must be permeated with divine Presence, informed with the form of beloved God who is within him, so he may radiate that Presence without working at it. Source

So, I spiraled back around to the idea of “unceasing incarnation.” That led me to a quote from the writings of Franciscan priest and writer, Richard Rohr who has put it succinctly,

God is into giving away God.  That’s all God is doing is giving away God.  There’s nothing else.  That’s God’s job description.  I want to give away some more God.  And God is trying through every metaphor, every act of creation, every moment of time to reveal a little more of God. Source

That triggered Eucharistic thoughts. The poem by the English poet and Anglican priest, George Herbert:

Love
Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning

If I lack’d anything.

‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’

Love said, ‘You shall be he.’

‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,

I cannot look on Thee.’

Love took my hand and smiling did reply,

‘Who made the eyes but I?’

‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.’

‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’

‘My dear, then I will serve.’

‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’

So I did sit and eat.

So, Christmas is an invitation to come and “truly see” what is really going on in the world. Indeed, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5.8)

The pure in heart are those whose vision is the Christmas vision. The pure in heart truly have the “Christmas spirit.” They truly seek and see and serve Christ “at all times and in all places.”

Once again, more from Meister Eckhart:

All beings
are words of God,
His music, His
art.

Sacred books we are, for the infinite camps  in our  souls.

Every act reveals God and expands His being.
I know that may be hard
to comprehend.

All creatures are doing their best
to help God in His birth
of Himself.

Enough talk for the night.
He is laboring in me;

I need to be silent
for a while,

worlds are forming
in my heart.

“I AM can be spoken by no creature but by God alone. I must become God and God must become me, so completely that we share the same ‘I’ eternally. Our truest ‘I’ is God.” Source

Wow, what an amazing journey of revelation. God grant me the spirit of joyful repentance to adjust my life so this is more how I live my life in practical ways during 2014.

Come and See – Go and Tell: All Heaven and Hell Breaks Loose

Hope your Christmas day was amazingly wonderful. But Christmas is not over. In the Holy Tradition offered to us by the Holy Spirit, we are just getting started !!!

Today and the next couple of days are very important. The Church desires to share an essential aspect of the character of the saving message of Christmas.

The following is the fruit of my quiet time this morning. It is my meager articulation, of the point the Church has sought, over the centuries to make, so we do not get the wrong idea about Christmas or the gospel. I say meager because you can find, if you do some “googling” a wealth of reflections by the saints on all of this.

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Christmas – December 25
Feast of the Protomartyr Stephen – December 26 (December 27th in East)
Feast of the Holy Innocents – December 28 (December 29th in East)

That may seem strange…

The story says,

[8] And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
[9] And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.
[10] And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people;
[11] for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
[12] And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
[13] And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
[14] “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”
[15] When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
[16] And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
[17] And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child;
[18] and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
[19] But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.
[20] And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2.8-20)

The shepherds:

  • Were told Good News
  • Invited to come and see the verification – experience the truth – of the Good News apparently without subtracting or adding anything (“as it had been told them”)
  • They went and saw
  • They made known the truth that had been told them and their experience
  • Those who heard it wondered
  • The shepherds returned to their previous occupations filled with praise to God

So, “coming and seeing” results in “experiencing” which results in “going and telling.”

Such are the raw materials of witnessing.

Notice the lack of argumentation and debate and the like and the abundance of wonder and pondering and considering deeply.

All seems well. Everyone is happy. Well, not everyone.

Today is the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr (witness) of the faith. Why the day after the feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?!

Juxtaposition. Remember what St. John says,

[4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
[5] The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
[6] There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
[7] He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him.
[8] He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.
[9] The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.
[10] He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.
[11] He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. (John 1.4-11)

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was born to reconcile and reunite what had been alienated and divided.

[18] All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
[19] that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
[20] So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
[21] For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5.18-21)

The Christmas story – narrative witness – is not just one of affirmation. It is one that includes repudiation, rejection, violence. It involves not just birth but death. The fullness of life in the setting in which the Word of God became incarnate testifies to a victory that includes BOTH acceptance and birth, the words of Mary sum up all of them – “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1.38); and rejection and death , the words of St. Luke regarding the reaction of those who heard the witness of Stephen sum up all of them – “when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him” (Acts 7.54).

This is the reason today’s feast of St. Stephen is followed, on December 29th, by the feast of the Holy Innocents – the story of Herod’s reaction to the birth of Jesus Christ and the consequences of it.

St. Cyprian speaks of this mysterious juxtaposition,

The Apostle John said: “Whoever says he abides in Christ, ought to walk even as Christ walked” (1Jn 2,6). Moreover, the blessed Apostle Paul exhorts and teaches us, saying: “We are God’s children; but if children, then heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him that we may also be glorified together” (Rm 8,16f.)… Let us, beloved brethren, imitate righteous Abel, who initiated martyrdom, he being the first to be slain for righteousness’ sake (Gn 4,8)…; let us imitate the three children Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, who… overcame the king by the power of faith (Dn 3)… What of the prophets whom the Holy Spirit quickened to a foreknowledge of future events? What of the apostles whom the Lord chose? Since these righteous men were slain for righteousness’ sake, have they not taught us also to die?

The nativity of Christ at once witnessed the martyrdom of infants, so that they who were two years old and under were slain for his name’s sake. An age not yet fitted for the battle appeared fit for the crown. That it might be manifest that they who are slain for Christ’s sake are innocent, innocent infancy was put to death for his name’s sake… How grave is the case of a Christian, if he, a servant, is unwilling to suffer when his Master first suffered…! The Son of God suffered that he might make us sons of God, and the son of man will not suffer that he may continue to be a son of God!… The Maker and Lord of the world also warns us, saying: “If the world hate you, remember that it hated me before you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world… remember the word that I said to you: “The servant is not greater than his lord” (Jn 15,18-20). (Letter 55)

AND, let’s be careful to allow juxtaposition to be an invitation into a life of mystery not an invitation to attempt to solve a contradiction and smooth out the difficult territory (edgy life) into which the “Glad Tidings” of Christmas invite us. To solve it and separate the happy stories from the sad ones would be to oppose the very thing the Incarnation is intended to do, reunite what has been divided and alienated. We have divided the happy and the sad because we cannot conceive what only the eyes of the heart and a heart of love can know and in which it can participate and facilitate; namely that the union of these “opposites” is the key to our salvation (the cross and empty tomb). The angels did say, after all, “I bring you good news of a great joy.” Well, this is the architecture of joy.

The Good News always defies and frustrates our attempts to corral and manage and control it and institutionalize it (the liberal or the conservative versions). It breaks out… The Good News challenges us to lean into juxtaposition not as an example of contradiction but as an example of a new territory in which to live. An new heaven and a new earth in which Mystery is descriptive of what is normal rather than a word we invent for the abnormal or miraculous.

The light shines in the darkness to overcome the darkness. And darkness is dark and does the deeds of darkness.  But, the darkness does not overcome the light. It is overcome by the light. The Mystery of the Incarnation is the Mystery of the recreation of “what is” into a new “what is.” It involves not just Mary and Joseph but Stephen and the Holy Innocents.

The story of the mystery of the Incarnation must include the reaction of evil to it. The joy the angels proclaim to the shepherds and to the world, mysteriously necessitates not just birth but also death. Not just acceptance but the possibility of rejection. The victory of new and abundant life in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ necessitates a life lived in the environment of mystery, wonder, love, and praise which is the messy environment of salvation.

The “In-temple-ment” of God

Luke 19.45-48
[45] And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold,  [46] saying to them, “It is written, `My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.”  [47] And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people sought to destroy him; [48] but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people hung upon his words.

John 1.14, 16
[14] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father… [16] And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace.

I identify in these two passages a similarity articulated in these words:

  • “and he entered the temple”
  • “he we teaching daily in the temple”
  • “the word became flesh and dwelt among us”
  • “full of grace and truth”

The temple is the place where God dwells. It is not made with the hands of human beings. It was and is fashioned by the hands of God. Into that temple God enters (breathes His presence) to dwell forever.

1 Corinthians 6.19
[19] Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; [20] you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

2 Corinthians 6.16
[16] What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

When the passage for today says “He was … daily in the temple” it is not just saying Jesus was able to be seen in the physical temple in Jerusalem. It is saying that Jesus was daily in the temple of God – human existence. He became human and walked daily in the temple of His humanity and ours, teaching. That is to say, offering the Way, Truth, and Life of the restoration of the indwelling of God both among humans and within them.

The saving work of God (power and grace) of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ is often called the “atonement.” But, that term is often used be the “preacher” to take the hearer down the road of divine appeasement, satisfaction of the wrath of God, dealing with God’s offended sense of justice, etc. I would like to humbly offer the idea that the saving work of God can be found, most deeply in the faith fact that the Son of God became the Son of Man – the Incarnation. Perhaps that is the subtle implication of the all too misunderstood term “atonement.” Perhaps its true meaning can be found in the idea communicated in the passages previously noted: salvation is choosing the journey of the “re-in-temple-ment” of God in mankind and the whole created order.

Pope Francis reflects on all of this quite wonderfully,

The ancient Temple was built by human hands. There was a wish “to give God a house”, to have a visible sign of his presence among the people. With the Incarnation of the Son of God, Nathan’s prophecy to King David was fulfilled (cf. 2 Sam 7,1-29): it is not the king, it is not we who “give God a house”; rather it is God himself who “builds his house” in order to come and dwell among us, as St John wrote in his Gospel (1,14). Christ is the living Temple of the Father, and Christ himself builds his “spiritual house”: the Church, not made of material stones but rather of “living stones” (1Pt 2,5), which we are.

The Apostle Paul said to the Christians of Ephesus: you are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built… for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (2,20-22). This is a beautiful thing! We are the living stones of God’s building, profoundly united to Christ who is the keystone and also the one that sustains us. What does this mean? It means that we are the temple, we are the living Church, the living temple, and with us when we are together is also the Holy Spirit, who helps us to grow as Church. We are not alone, for we are the People of God: this is the Church!…

God is daily in His temple – you and me – or at least He seeks to be. Actually, even all human being. Are we a house of prayer? That is a question we all must ask, not matter on which side of the baptismal waters we live.

Perhaps baptism is the recapture, cleansing, rededication, and daily opportunity to, with a spirit of thanksgiving, “commune” with God. Perhaps my/our whole life of discipleship is the struggle (with fear and trembling) to live out all of this.

The rekindling of the light in the midst of the darkness.

John 1.4-5
[4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
[5] The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

And, therefore, what is prayer but the conversation of dynamic “at-one-ment,” the converse of love offered, received, and reciprocated.  The shining converse of the light. “In-temple-ment” is for the purpose of prayer not the converse (commerce — giving and receiving) of lesser things. Perhaps that is what Jesus might have been implying: you have chosen to major on the minors or you have chosen to seek first what does not deserve to be sought first. Seek first the kingdom, My “in-temple-ment” and all of the rest of what you need will follow.

Am I “the temple of God” a house of prayer – a location where others can encounter and have converse with God? The temple of God is a/the house to which all can come and into which all who come can enter and encounter the resident God who has “tabernacled” (pitched His tent) within me? Reestablished the at-one-ness of God and man, of God and the whole universe.

Perhaps this is a good thing upon which to meditate as I enter Advent which is the preparation for the celebration of the Incarnation (the “in-temple-ment”) of the Word of God. Perhaps God was given us to repossess and rededicate the temple of God by the Maccabeans a prefiguring of the struggle of our discipleship. The light shines again and forever where there had been an oppressive darkness. The light has vanquished the darkness. Perhaps that is why the readings for today are 2nd Maccabees 4:36-37.52-59 as well as Luke 19.45-48. Perhaps feast of Hanukkah and the feast of the Incarnation (Christmas) deeply inform one another and belong together.

Hmmm….