Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas—Incarnation, recast

from a post on December 29, 2009

It’s not the Resurrection, dammit! It’s the Incarnation!
Godfrey Diekmann, OSB.

Godfrey exploded with this statement in the students’ dining hall at St. John’s. An editorial in National Catholic Reporter reminded me of this story in The Monk’s Tale, a biography of Diekmann, by Kathleen Hughes. When I was at the School of Theology, she came onto the Collegeville campus to gather stories for her book about our colorful and inspirational professor, Godfrey, as he was known by students and fellow professors. Among my cherished memories of Godfrey, who played an important role in contemporary Church history, is his frequent return to the theme of the Mystical Body. He lamented the Church's neglect of it.

To traditional Christians, God’s entry into time and history happened at the birth of Jesus, whom they worship as God.  But I see their worship as a form of idolatry.
We incarnate or embody the Divine—this is what I believe Godfrey was saying. We are the eyes, hands, and feet of Christ, and I don’t mean a man, and by “we” I don’t mean only Christians. Divinity resides in the heart of the Hindu, Inuit, Muslim, Sikh, animist, whatever. Eternity is enfleshed in all creation, and our distinctly human task is to consciously advance this process of Incarnation.

When I said something like this in a blogspot a long time ago, someone commented that non-Christians would object to being called “the eyes, hands, and feet of Christ.” I have to agree. I’m doing my best here to bridge Christian doctrine with other spiritual systems, and I inevitably offend one side or the other. Speaking as a Christian, I’m comfortable with Christian terms, but I have no patience with traditionalists bent on preserving the literal and exclusive understanding of our religious doctrines.

A Buddhist interviewed in Sacred Journey (summer 2009), said of the Dalai Lama,
He feels that even if someone is beating his body, underneath the cells of his body is the realm of pure light that is blissful. . . . welling up from the core of the reality of life, an infinite sustaining energy, which is what I think all highly spiritually developed people tap into, whatever they call it.
How well this captures incarnational possibility!
I think that, if Godfrey were working in this new century with its wealth of alternative spiritual voices, he would have listened. He would have synthesized the Dalai Lama’s view with Paul’s “Christ lives in me.” And he might even have seen the link with secular humanism, which more than religions has advanced human dignity and human rights around the world.

Carl Jung integrated Christian doctrine with secular spirituality. He showed that our thinking I, our ego or conscious mind, needs to become aware of our unconscious totality, our Higher Self. He called this a process of incarnation because the inner Self  “cannot be distinguished from God-images,” of which Christ is the prominent example. How do we achieve incarnation or union of ego with divinity? Jung answers, “God becomes manifest in the human act of reflection.”  What follows is becoming the eyes, hands, and feet of Christ.

Christmas is the feast of the Incarnation, but, oh, what a variety of meanings can flow out of this! To me it can mean that we are to become Mothers of God in a Virgin Birth.
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Now an email response to my posts.  Ron Ohmann gave me permission to quote him, hoping his comment may help others to understand my message:
Thanks, Jeanette. Although we enjoy the prevailing Catholic/Christian "take" on Christmas, we remind ourselves it is largely mythology. It really is beautiful mythology which is why it has such strong cultural appeal, I suppose. But, as thinking Catholics who read Bp.J.W.Spong, yourself, and others, we are, I believe, more realistic regarding Christmas and other aspects of Christianity. It is, I feel, the only way one can truly grow spiritually as a Christian. Happy New Year,             Ron

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