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Incarnation

Christ Born in Us

Friday, December 25th, 2020

Incarnation

Christ Born in Us
Friday, December 25, 2020
Christmas Day

What I have seen is the totality recapitulated as one,
received not in essence but by participation.
Just as if you lit a flame from a flame,
it is the whole flame you receive.
—Symeon the New Theologian

Symeon the New Theologian (949‒1022) was a Byzantine Christian monk and mystic revered to this day by Eastern Christians. Symeon believed humans had the capacity to experience God’s presence directly. He visualized this union happening within the “force field” of the Body of Christ. This cosmic embodiment is created both by God’s grace and our response.

Symeon’s “Hymn 15” from his collected Hymns of Divine Love beautifully names the divine union that God is forever inviting us toward. These mystical lines honestly say it all for me and move me to an embodied knowing, to a living force field wherein we will know mystical union on even the cellular level.

We awaken in Christ’s body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in His Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous?—Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
We wake up inside Christ’s body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
we awaken as the Beloved
in every last part of our body. [1]

For many of us, our Christmas celebrations will be a little (or a lot) smaller, but I hope no less joyful. I invite you to contemplate the wonder of Symeon’s words. How might we experience the Christ born in us today, “utterly real . . . transformed . . . radiant in His light”?

References:
[1] Symeon the New Theologian, “Hymn 15,” from The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, ed. Stephen Mitchell (Harper Perennial: 1993), 38–39.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 219–220.

Epigraph: Symeon the New Theologian, “Hymn 1.”

Image credit: The Virgin and Child with Archangels, Scenes from the Life of Christ, and Saints (detail), early 17th century (Early Gondarine), Tigray Kifle Håger, Ethiopia, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
What I have seen is the totality recapitulated as one,
received not in essence but by participation.
Just as if you lit a flame from a flame,
it is the whole flame you receive.
—Symeon the New Theologian
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