13 December 2008

mortality, time and travel

I have been thinking about mortality. I am also thinking about incarnation.

I was in hospital for two days. The doctor opened an artery inserted tubes into my heart, observed a severely blocked artery, and inserted a stint to both hold the artery open and resist clogging.

Some folks have heart attacks caused by the trauma of the intervention, and if a small piece of plague blocking an artery makes its way to the brain, stroke is a real possibility. I am home and so those things did not happen -- I am told the danger is now past.

I have excellent doctors, a good hospital and a reasonable expectation that all is well. A year ago, absent health insurance, my fate would have been different. That is my musing about my own mortality.

It is Advent. It is a time to consider the coming celebration of incarnation. Emmanuel parish celebrates Christmas as our patrimonial feast. We are the people who proclaim that God is with us.

What does that mean? Really?

On the one hand we can perhaps understand what it means to us. We say it -- God with us. But what does it mean to God? God who stands outside of creation and time, who transcends death, who is life. When we recite the formula of John, 'for God so loved the world" we understate the case horribly. For eternal to put on temporal, for immortal to accept death is love beyond all possible human understanding.

Incarnation is the core of our belief. Without it nothing else matters about the faith -- with it, nothing else matters at all.

Incarnation, the immortal becoming mortal. Taking on pain, loss, temptation; even death. That is the core of the reality when we say "God so loved the world."


Leonard said...

Exactly...thank you.

Scott R. Davis said...

very good post. feel free to check out my blog at www.scottrdavis.blogspot.com

plsdeacon said...


I would repectfully disagree with you. The incarnation is not the central tenent of the Christian Faith. That is the Resurrection. Without the Resurrection, we would never know that God was with us.

For me, even before the Resurrection, we have the Trinity. Only when we know God as One God in three persons does the Crucifixion and the Resurrection make sense and only when they make sense does the incarnation make sense. Of course, reasoning to the Trinity requires accepting the Resurrection and Incarnation first.

Phil Snyder

JimB said...

Hya Phil,

There is a reason that Mary is so prominent among Orthodox and catholic Christians. And it is why a good bit of early thought and writing centers of the nature of Jesus. The nature of whom it was who lived Jesus' life, died His death and was transformed in His resurrection matters.

God after all can come down from his sapphire throne ( I hope that thing has a cushion!) assume the appearance of a man, heal a few people, say some interesting stuff, even submit to crucifixion and then re-appear. He is God! Who could tell him no? And why would we care?

God being resurrected does not serve as a demonstration project for me. God doing good things does not enable good work from me. Only God, fully incarnated into a man's existence not sharing but experiencing his life matters. Because if Jesus can do all He did with God's help so can I.

From the time of Holy Stephen to our day, we catholic folk believe we can. Blood of our martyrs became and ocean to drown the roman empire. We can with God's help walk where Jesus walked (even in California.)

We could not do that for an impersonator God. God joined himself however he did it, whenever in the life of Jesus he did it, with his chosen and became briefly one of us.

Without that who cares about resurrection? Of course God can arraign: standing completely outside of time and space to come back whenever. Resurrection matters precisely because Jesus, a man, experienced it -- because within Jesus however this worked, God dwelt among us.

One of the more lovely images associated with the birth narratives is the one that says the entire universe, all of creation and all of heaven, held its breath waiting for Mary to simple say 'volo.' "Let it be as you have said." The legend is that the heavens rang with joy and the demons stopped their ears.

One of the early defeated heresies was that Jesus was not incarnate: God simply appeared. It is the flip side of the Islamic heresy that Jesus was merely a prophet.

Please understand I don't seek to diminish the fact or centrality of resurrection. I am saying that who is resurrected matters.

I am (in)famous in my parish for my dislike of the Johnian Gospel. But I think he nailed the important point "The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us." I like to point out the evangelicals John did not say, "The Word became flesh and was printed."


Phil Snider said...

Hi Jim;

I'm very sorry I missed this post and that you've been in the hospital with such major surgury. I hope you're recovering well and I will, of course, be praying for you.

As for my doppelganger's comment (Hi Phil!), I'd say you're right although one could separate Resurrection and Incarnation--at least, orthodox and most conservative Jews do because their belief in the resurrection of the people of Israel is not tied to an incarnate God. That said, I don't think we can safely separate Incarnation, Resurrection and Trinity in a Christian context. They hang together too much and losing one of those elements (along with, I suspect, other things that I'm too dull to connect today). If we do separate them, we're liable to have something rather different than Christian teaching over the centuries.


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