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The Hiding Place Is Also the Revelation Place of God

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Incarnation: A Franciscan View

The Hiding Place Is Also the Revelation Place of God
Thursday, June 4, 2015

Most pictures or statues of people honoring God or the Holy Spirit or pleading for grace show humans looking upward with their hands raised—the assumption being that God is “up there.” In the great basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, where Francis is buried, there is a small bronze statue of Francis honoring the Holy Spirit. Francis’ posture here is very unusual. Instead of arms uplifted and looking toward the sky, Francis has his hands folded and is looking down into the earth.

As a Christian, I see this as one of the few honest recognitions of the direction of the incarnation: Jesus emptied himself and became flesh (see Philippians 2). It was not a movement into the heavens but into the earth. Francis recognized the full and final implications of the incarnation. If God became flesh and entered this world in Jesus, then the hiding place of God is this world, in the material, in the animals, in the elements, in the physical. These are the hiding places—and the revelation places—of God! Why didn’t the Church make that clear and compelling?

The first two intellectuals who followed Francis (Bonaventure, the Italian, and Duns Scotus, the Scotsman) realized that Francis found the Transcendent not just “out there” in the heavens somewhere, but “in here.” And they made it into an intellectually satisfying philosophy and theology, so it could move beyond pious sentiment. Together they saw the Transcendent within all of creation. This insight changes everything! Grace is now inherent. Grace is not something you invite into the world as if it’s not already here. It’s not so much about God doing everything from the outside (ad extra in Latin). Now we know that life is generated from the inside (ad intra), where God already is. Once that becomes a spiritual realization, life is very, very different. Things like evolution, change, growth, renewal, and even resurrection are not “second nature” or something to be denied, but in fact our very first and final nature.  Think about that for the rest of your life.

Gateway to Silence:
The Christ is everywhere.

Adapted from an unpublished talk.

Image credit: The Legend of St. Francis: 4. Miracle of the Crucifix (fresco detail). 1297-99, Giotto di Bondone, Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi, Italy.
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