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Inspiriting the World

Incarnation

Inspiriting the World
Thursday, December 26, 2019

What I am calling an incarnational worldview is the profound recognition of the presence of the divine in literally “every thing” and “every one.” It is the key to mental and spiritual health as well as to a kind of basic contentment and happiness. An incarnational worldview is the only way we can reconcile our inner worlds with the outer one, unity with diversity, physical with spiritual, individual with corporate, and divine with human.

Every time you take in a breath, you are repeating the pattern of taking spirit into matter, and thus repeating the first creation of Adam. And every time you breathe out, you are repeating the pattern of returning spirit to the material universe. In a way, every exhalation is a “little dying” as you pay the price of inspiriting the world. Your simple breathing models your entire vocation as a human being. Like Christ, you are an incarnation of matter and spirit operating as one. This, more than anything we believe or accomplish, is how all of us continue the mystery of incarnation in space and time—either knowingly and joyfully or not.

As the theologian St. Maximus the Confessor put it, “God made all beings to this end, to [enjoy the same union] of humanity and divinity that was united in Christ.” [1] Later, St. Gregory Palamas made it even more specific: “The transformation of our human nature, its deification and transfiguration—were these not accomplished in Christ from the start, from the moment in which He assumed our nature?” [2] These kinds of jewels are found much more in the writings of the Eastern church and its Fathers. St. Athanasius “the Father of Orthodoxy” put it this way: “God [in Christ] became the bearer of flesh [for a time] in order that [humanity] might become the bearer of Spirit forever.” [3] This was the Great Exchange. Jesus was meant to be the guarantee that divinity can indeed reside within humanity, which is always our great doubt and denial. And once we recognize that as possible, then most of our problems are already solved. Resurrection of both persons and planets becomes a foregone conclusion! What that exactly means, of course, I cannot possibly know (1 Corinthians 2:9), but our faith invites us to trust in it.

Simply put, if death is not possible for the Christ, then it is not possible for anything that “shares in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). God is by definition eternal, and God is Love (1 John 4:16), which is also eternal (1 Corinthians 13:13), and this same Love has been planted in our hearts (Romans 5:5, 8:9) by the Spirit dwelling within us. Such fully Implanted Love cannot help but evolve and prove victorious, and Christianity’s word for that final victory is “resurrection.”

References:
[1] Maximus the Confessor (580–662), Quaestiones ad Thalassium, 60.3. See St. Maximos the Confessor, On Difficulties in Sacred Scripture: The Responses to Thalassios, trans. Maximos Constas (Catholic University of America Press: 2018), 428-429.

[2] Gregory Palamas (1296–1359), The Uncreated Glory, 15. See The Triads, ed. John Meyendorff, trans. Nicholas Gendle (Paulist Press: 1983), 76.

[3] Athanasius (298–373), On the Incarnation, 8. See The Roots of Christian Mysticism: Text and Commentary, Olivier Clément (New City Press: 1995), 263.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 18, 99, 178-180.

Image credit: Flight into Egypt (detail), Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1923, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Once we can accept that God is in all situations, and that God can and will use even bad situations for good, then everything becomes an occasion for good and an occasion for God. —Richard Rohr
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