The Beginning Shall Remind Us of the End: Came Down and Disappeared Into Us

[The Incarnation is like] a wave of the sea which,
rushing up on the flat beach,
runs out, even thinner and more transparent,
and does not return to its source but sinks into the sand and disappears.
~Hans Urs von Balthasar from Origen: Spirit and Fire

The Word became flesh.
Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you could crush one-handed.

Incarnation.
It is not tame.
It is not beautiful.
It is uninhabitable terror.
It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light.


Agonized laboring led to it,
vast upheavals of intergalactic space,

time split apart,
a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself.
You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this:
“God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God… who for us and for our salvation,” as the Nicene Creed puts it, “came down from heaven.”

Came down.

Only then do we dare uncover our eyes and see what we can see.
It is the Resurrection and the Life she holds in her arms.
It is the bitterness of death he takes at her breast.
~Frederick Buechner from Whistling in the Dark

Down he came from up,
and in from out,
and here from there.
A long leap,
an incandescent fall
from magnificent
to naked, frail, small,
through space,
between stars,
into our chill night air,
shrunk, in infant grace,
to our damp, cramped
earthy place
among all
the shivering sheep.

And now, after all,
there he lies,
fast asleep.
~Luci Shaw “Descent” from Accompanied By Angels

Perhaps it is the mystery of the thing that brings us back,
again and again, to read the story of 
how God came down and disappeared into us.

How can this be?
God appearing on earth first to animals,
then the most humble of humans.

How can He be?
Through the will of the Father and the breath of the Spirit,
the Son was, and is and yet to be.

O great mystery beyond all understanding.

This year’s Barnstorming Advent theme “… the Beginning shall remind us of the End” is taken from the final lines in T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees”

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo,
cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum.
Alleluia!

O great mystery and wondrous sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord lying in their Manger!
Blessed is the Virgin
whose womb was worthy to bear the Lord Jesus Christ.
Alleluia!

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2 thoughts on “The Beginning Shall Remind Us of the End: Came Down and Disappeared Into Us

  1. The affirmation ‘like’ does not entirely convey my total reaction to today’s post (von Balthasar, Buechner, Shaw and, you, dear Emily.) It is at once thundering, revolutionary, nearly impossible to register in its truth and reality within a human brain – or soul.
    But we know and believe- deep within that soul — that blessed consciousness, that gift beyond all giving did indeed occur (as predicted by the Hebrew Prophets) over two millennia ago, in a tiny
    animal shelter in Bethlehem.
    That event changed for all time our miniscule world in a spiraling cosmic universe.

    And yet, it seems that celebrating, honoring, and giving thanks for that saving ‘event’ is no longer
    relevant in our present world. Instead, we are inundated by inane ‘Christmas stories’ permeating
    our recreational media, interspersed with mass hysteria as merchants hawk the latest in
    Christmas gifts (‘Black Friday, et al), assuring frantic buyers maxing out their credit cards that
    what they have to offer will make us happy and content in a world gone increasingly insane with
    hatred, savagery, and godless immorality.

    Believers in the Divine Mystery – the Incarnation – our Creator-God’s gift of Himself through the
    birth of His Son, Jesus the Christ – seem to be averse to proclaim their faith openly (or worse,
    put their faith in other ‘gods’ that promise fame, power, economic plenty).

    Has mankind forgotten, or consider unimportant – no longer relevant to our fast-paced hedonistic
    ethic of today – our Loving God’s precious gifts of Salvation through His Promises of Forgiveness
    and Eternal Life with Him — or a fairy story from ages ago?

    I fear the answer to that question!,

    Liked by 1 person

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