Incarnation: Week 2
The Dance of Breath and Soil
Monday, January 18, 2016
The whole process of living, dying, and then living again starts with YHWH “breathing into clay,” which then becomes “a living being” (Genesis 2:7) called Adam (“of the earth”). A drama is forever set in motion between breath and what appears to be mere soil or earth (humus, human, adamah). The Formless One forever takes on form as “Adam” (and in Jesus “the new Adam”), and then takes us back to the Formless. Each form painfully surrenders the small self that it has known for a while and returns to its original shape in the Great Self we call God. “I am returning to take you with me, so that where I am you also may be,” says Jesus (John 14:3). This changing of forms is called death and resurrection, and the return is called ascension, although to us it just looks like loss.
After the resurrection when Jesus “breathed on” the fearful disciples and said, “Peace be with you. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22), he was making a clear connection with the first creation of Adam. Jesus is now re-created. He is mimicking the creation story. Adam represents the great human forgetfulness and fragility. Christ is the great divine memory and strength. Humanity is being re-animated with what it always forgets; breath and soil, spirit and matter are again reminded that they are in fact one. God is again breathing into “the clay of the earth” (Genesis 2:7) and reminding it that it is never just earth and clay. This, of course, makes resurrection a foregone conclusion, because in fact Spirit can never die “and as we have borne the likeness of the earthly one, so we shall also bear the likeness of the heavenly one” (1 Corinthians 15:49). Jesus’ resurrection is not a one-time anomaly, but the regular and universal structure of reality revealed in one person.
Buddhists are looking at the same mystery with a different vocabulary when they say, “Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form,” and that all forms eventually return to formlessness (spirit or emptiness) once again. This is observable and needs no specific religious label as such. Christians call it incarnation, culminating in death, resurrection, and ascension. Whatever we call it, this process is about all of us, and surely all of creation, coming forth as individuals and then going back into God, into the Ground of all Being. This cyclical wholeness should make us unafraid of all death and uniquely able to appreciate life. “To God, all people are in fact alive,” as Jesus put it (Luke 20:38). We are just in different stages of that aliveness. One of these stages looks and feels like deadness—the phase that demands our greatest trust and surrender. And of course, if humanity is free we must always leave open the possibility that some could choose this permanent deadness, which we call “hell.” No one is in that state unless they choose to be.
As hidden as the True Self has been from the False Self, so also has the Risen Christ been hidden from most of history, as the Gospel accounts seem to be saying. Not surprisingly, we cannot see what we were not told to look for or told to expect. So our job is to tell people to look and see! If we were told to look at all, it was for some divine object outside ourselves instead of realizing that the divine presence is also within us. This is the staggering change of perspective that the Gospel was meant to achieve. This realization is at the heart of all religious transformation (transformare, to change forms).
The Risen Christ represents the final form of every person who has walked the human journey on this earth. I know you might have to read this meditation several times to let it sink in, but it is worth it. It should entirely change your life perspective.
Gateway to Silence:
God in me sees God who is also beyond me.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 81-83.