“In the beginning there was the WORD, and the WORD was with GOD, and the WORD was GOD, and then the WORD became flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”
Words are pure information. They are abstract representations of concepts which signify something meaningful to us that permit us to communicate, not only with others, but also with ourselves. Without words, consciousness as we know it would not be possible. When we develop new words to describe previously indescribable concepts, we become more conscious, and therefore more in control. By having a word for “anger,” I can understand feelings of anger when they arise, I can bracket them, I can channel them, I can calm them. Where we have words, we are empowered to be better, to become more. Where we have no language, we wallow in ignorance.
It is significant, therefore, that St John describes the Incarnation as a process of WORD becoming flesh. The Greek word he uses here is LOGOS, which comes from a root that means “to say, to speak, a telling.” The Christ was an embodied telling of the Love of GOD, that ineffable mystery for which we not only do not have language, but cannot have language. The only adequate words for GOD are those that confess openly our inadequacy, our own ignorance, our own finitude. The only proper words for GOD are actually words for ourselves which communicate the fact that when we speak of the Infinite, we actually don’t know what it is we are talking about.
This great Divine Mystery, this YHWH, this “All that Is,” the great “I AM THAT I AM,” which contains all of physics, all of mathematics, all of the information that is or ever was, out of which all things were made, this LOGOS…to think that its core information is manifestable in human formation is the greatest mystery of the Incarnation, and therefore of the Christian faith. All of the supposed miracles of the Christian faith pale in comparison to the miracle of the Incarnation itself.
And yet there is perhaps a greater mystery. The greater mystery is that this Incarnation is archetypal–it is exemplary.
Irenaeus, the 2nd Century Church Father, writes “Do we cast blame on him [God] because we were not made gods from the beginning, but were at first created merely as men, and then later as gods? Although God has adopted this course out of his pure benevolence, that no one may charge him with discrimination or stinginess, he declares, ‘I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are sons of the Most High.’ …For it was necessary at first that nature be exhibited, then after that what was mortal would be conquered and swallowed up in immortality.”
Echoing Irenaeus, Athanasius of Alexandria declares more forcefully “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”
Though any one man should die in his fleshly formation, so God should live eternally through the selflessness of his sons and daughters. So long as this information is passed on, the death of any formation is of no report. Hence, it is the sacrifice of the Lamb upon the Cross toward which any person with a Christian vocation is called. It is only in the embrace of “the last will be first, and the first will be last,” that the Christian may embrace her LORD.
The question of the season, then, is not fundamentally about a person who lived 2,000 years ago, but about where that LOGOS lives today? Does it live in me? Am I the WORD made flesh? Shall I bring healing to all people, or do I reside in my lower nature sowing divisions and discords? For the WORD is dead which does not manifest in action, to paraphrase the observations of St James.
Oh how inadequate I am in the face of that Archetype. Oh how far I must yet travel. But how thankful am I that I at least know who to try to imitate. At least my example is worthy of being exemplary!
“Greater love hath no man than he who would lay down his life for his friends.”
Merry Christmas to all–peace and good will toward all people, toward all creation!