A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Incarnation and beyond

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God....

And the Word was made flesh,
and dwelt among us....

(John 1:1,14)

The center of our faith is the Incarnation: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, true God and true man.

The most perfect and complete revelation of God actually entered human history walked on the earth among us.

That which was from the beginning,
which we have heard,
which we have seen with our eyes,
which we have looked upon,
and our hands have handled,
of the Word of life;

(For the life was manifested,
and we have seen it,
and bear witness,
and shew unto you
that eternal life,
which was with the Father,
and was manifested unto us;)

That which we have seen and heard
declare we unto you...
(1 John 1:1-3a)

And yet in today's Gospel (John 16:5-11), during those truly wondrous days while our Lord was still here - sitting with his disciples, looking them in the eye, and telling them unimaginable things - he says this:

I tell you the truth;
It is expedient for you
that I go away....

The disciples were already quite overwhelmed when our Lord says this ("sorrow hath filled your heart"), so it is not surprising that no immediate reaction to our Lord's words is recorded here, but one can easily imagine their distress and the bewilderment. How could it be "expedient" to have the Lord "go away"?

It is more than just the perspective of distance: the fact that human beings often find it difficult to grasp or appreciate fully people and events while they are still present, that the reality sinks in only when it is past. It is much more than that.

If I go not away,
the Comforter will not come unto you;
but if I depart,
I will send him unto you.

Our Lord makes it clear that his departure is a prerequisite for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Why should this be so? The most fundamental reason is that our Lord's "going away" involves his death and resurrection: the central and pivotal event of history, of revelation and of salvation.

Another reason involves a challenge that human beings have in confronting the mystery of the Incarnation: it is hard for finite sensate creatures such as ourselves to appreciate that a man whom we see walking down the street, whose voice we hear, with whom we shake hands, and who stays pretty close to home in a relatively small country, that this man is God - transcendent, omnipotent, omnipresent, and eternal.

Stupid creatures that we are, Christ's divinity in a sense becomes easier for us to appreciate - without denying or taking away any of his human nature - when he has ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.

Even Christ's Ascension, however, is not enough in itself to prove his divinity: ultimately it is the Holy Spirit that enables us to grasp the truth of who Christ is and what Christ has done.

That is one of the reasons St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:3 "that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost."

And thus do we come to understand more of what our Lord says in today's Gospel:

Nevertheless I tell you the truth;
It is expedient for you
that I go away:
for if I go not away,
the Comforter will not come unto you;
but if I depart,
I will send him unto you.

And when he is come,
he will reprove the world of sin,
and of righteousness,
and of judgment:
Of sin,
because they believe not on me;
Of righteousness,
because I go to my Father,

and ye see me no more;
Of judgment,
because the prince of this world is judged.

Sometimes you and I may daydream about how wonderful it would have been for us to have seen our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ before his Ascension, to have heard his voice with our own ears, and perhaps even to have touched the hem of his garment.

Yet it is much more expedient for us - indeed, how blessed we are - that Christ has ascended to the Father and has given us of his Holy Spirit, that by his grace we may know more fully who Christ is and what he has done.

As our Lord said after his resurrection:

because thou hast seen me,
thou hast believed:

blessed are they that have not seen,
and yet have believed.