Choosing the better part

Choosing the better part

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Of Love's Embrace: God Humbly Bends Down

The topic for November's Schola Christi is "A Presence We Can Approach."  As I have prayed about this and considered Fr. Cameron's reflection among others, what stands out in my mind is that we can approach God because he has made it possible to do so - not only in and through the Incarnation and the Cross but through the act of creation itself.  He has made us for himself.  There is a distinct connection between the mystery of creation and the mystery of the Incarnation of our Redeemer.  St. John writes: "In the beginning was the Word . . . Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him" (John 1:1-3).

Franciscan theologians, especially, have emphasized this point - that the Incarnation is too great a mystery simply to remedy a defect in humanity.  According to the philosopher Duns Scotus, for example, from all eternity God has willed to come in Christ solely for the reason that God willed to love creatures who would respond and could respond fully in love.  In fact, all of creation is an expression of the Word of God.  Ilia Delio, O.S.F., in her work, The Humility of God writes: "we might say that Incarnation has been happening for a very long time; indeed, ever since God uttered the eternal 'yes' to a finite lover.  All of creation is incarnational.  That is why when Jesus, the Word made flesh, came among us, there was a 'perfect fit' because all along creation was prepared to receive the fullness of the Word into it.  As Bonaventure reminds us, Christ is not ordained to us but rather we are ordained to Christ.  Christ is the noble perfection of creation.  Scotus, too, would say that Jesus Christ is the blueprint for creation because Christ is first in God's intention to love.  To think that from the very 'beginning' (whatever that beginning may be) Christ and creation were destined to be co-lovers of God! " (p. 58).   Thus, we can approach God because from all eternity God has said "yes" to us in love and desired us to love Him in return.

It is this love, that is the reason for the Incarnation, that St. Francis also saw as the reason for God's humility.  Similar to how Pope Benedict XVI describes, in his encyclical Deus Caritas est, Divine Eros as the supreme expression of his Agape, so God's humble love is a love that goes out of itself toward the other for the sake of the other.  God makes himself completely approachable in this sense.  St. Bonaventure wrote: "'The Word was made flesh'.  These words give expression to that heavenly mystery . . . that the eternal God has humbly bent down and lifted the dust of our nature into unity with his own person.'  For Bonaventure, Incarnation signifies a God who humbly bends down to lift us up.  Humility means that God is turned toward us just as the Father turned toward the Son in love.  Because we are finite creatures, God bends over in love to embrace us. . .  .  The humility of God is something like the baby in the crib.  God is at once the small helpless infant who lies quietly in the crib of the universe, and also the strong one who can raise up a fragile human being and draw that person into the embrace of infinite love.  God is Most High and Most Humble. . .  . the Incarnation is the profound bow of God stretching forth the divine arms in a wide embrace of love.  God not only loves creation profoundly but the 'bow' is holy and reverential, as if God loves us to such an extent that he reverences every aspect of creation.  God bends low so that God can meet us exactly where we, finite, fragile, created human beings, creatures and all living things, are" (Delio, p. 51).

We are able to approach this Divine Presence because God has immersed Himself in our humanity.  Again Delio writes: "When Bonaventure speaks of the humility of God, he is saying that God not only meets us where we are but God meets us where we are in our sinfulness, our ugliness, our violent tendencies and selfish behaviors.  The humility of God means that God's love is so abundant that God is willing to plunge into the darkness of humanity to bring us into the fullness of life" (p. 52).

It is for these reasons that we can make that step of faith from the fear and poverty of our humanity across the threshold into the mystery of God life and the embrace of His Love.    

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