“What are you giving up for Lent?”
“It must be something very dear.”
“What do you hope to win by it?”
(As if one quenched the sun by saying,
There is a song in silence
That sound could never sing.
There is a light in darkness
That suns could never bring.
There is a love in loneliness,
That baffles ecstasy.
Call me, beloved, I shall not come,
I go…to Calvary.
This is the month, and this the happy morn,
Wherein the Son of Heaven’s eternal King,
Of wedded maid and Virgin Mother born,
Our great redemption from above did bring;
For so the holy sages once did sing,
That he our deadly forfeit should release,
And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.
-John Milton, On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity
As if until that moment
had happened since Creation
As if outside the world were empty
so that she and he were all
there was — he mover, she moved upon
As if her submission were the most
dynamic of all works: as if
no one had ever said Yes like that
As if one day the sun had no place
in all the universe to pour its gold
but her small room
“The Incarnation is hard to dismiss out of hand because it so radically comes near our needs. Into the world of living and dying the arrival of Christ as a child turns fears of isolation, weakness, and condemnation on their heads. C.S. Lewis describes the doctrine of the Incarnation as a story that gets under our skin unlike any other creed, religion, or theory. “[The Incarnation] digs beneath the surface, works through the rest of our knowledge by unexpected channels, harmonises best with our deepest apprehensions… and undermines our superficial opinions. It has little to say to the man who is still certain that everything is going to the dogs, or that everything is getting better and better, or that everything is God, or that everything is electricity. Its hour comes when these wholesale creeds have begun to fail us.”(2) Standing over the precipices of the things that matter, nothing matters more than that there is a loving, forgiving, eager God who draws near.
The great hope of the Incarnation is that God comes for us. God is aware and Christ is present, having come in flesh, and it changes everything. “[I]f accepted,” writes Lewis, “[the Incarnation] illuminates and orders all other phenomena, explains both our laughter and our logic, our fear of the dead and our knowledge that it is somehow good to die,…[and] covers what multitudes of separate theories will hardly cover for us if this is rejected.”(3) The coming of Christ as an infant in Bethlehem puts flesh on humanity’s worth and puts God in humanity’s weakness. To the captive, there is no other freedom.”
Winter snow will come.
Winter wind will blow.
Snow melts on flesh.
Wind bites the flesh.
One cannot deny they are alive
In the throes of a driving winter storm.
One cannot deny light is brightest
When filling many thousand years darkness.
Our flesh cannot deny enfleshment
When our ears are pierced by gnashing gales,
When our hands bleed upon icy snow drifts.
From Mary’s sweet silence,
Come, Word mutely spoken!
Pledge of our real life,
Come, Bread yet unbroken!
Seed of the Golden Wheat,
In us be sown.
Fullness of true Light,
Through us be known.
Secret held tenderly,
Guarded with Love,
Cradled in purity,
Child of the Dove,
-Sr. M. Charlita, I.H.M.
“The Christian religion asks us to place our trust not in ideas, and certainly not in ideologies, but in a God who was vulnerable enough to become human and die, and who desires to be present to us in our everyday circumstances. And because we are human, it is in the realm of the daily and mundane that we must find our way to God.”
-Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries
-caravaggio, taking of Christ
‘guilty, vile, and helpless we;
spotless lamb of God was he;
full atonement! can it be?
hallelujah! what a savior!
If you want,
the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy,
“I need shelter for the night,
please take me inside your heart,
my time is so close.”
Then, under the roof of your soul
you will witness the sublime
intimacy, the divine, the Christ
as she grasps your hand for help,
for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.
Yet there, under the dome of your being does creation
come into existence eternally,
through your womb, dear pilgrim—
the sacred womb in your soul,
as God grasps our arms for help;
for each of us is
His beloved servant
If you want, the Virgin will come walking
down the street pregnant
with Light and sing…
–St. John of the Cross, “If You Want” in Daniel Ladinsky Love Poems from God:
Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West