Let us now go deeper in the meaning and implications of the Incarnation, not only seen as a short moment in time (when the Son of God comes in Mary, during the Annunciation (see Luke 1:26..)) but as a whole process, i.e. longer, deeper and mystical. “Longer” in time, and “deeper” in the meaning and in the implications and “mystical” in the relationship it creates between Jesus and each one of us: “By his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man” (John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, 13; Vatican II, G.S., 22)
The Incarnation is not a historical event that is independent from us, distant from us, that we can watch, as we would watch TV. It is not only something that happened to one being (Jesus born from Mary) 2000 years ago, in a town called Nazareth. It is not circumscribed in a very short period of time and “that’s it”: 9 months in the womb of Mary. It is not either only just some event that we can consider, and be moved by. It is infinitely much more. Incarnation changes everything and we should become aware of the changes and their implications on us.
To say: “when the Son of God takes flesh, in a certain way, he unites himself to you and me” is very different to saying: “a Prophet is born 2000 years ago”.
When we say that when He appears to the world at the age of 30, and is baptised, we need to understand that He is baptised in us, in our humanity, in our condition, he is like a “sponge” that absorbs each one of us and carries us, this makes a big difference.
Then I understand that if He is carrying me in Him (mystically) He becomes “my way” (Jesus is “The Way”). That when he goes through the temptation in desert, it is for the aim of doing for it himself first, and therefore opening the way for me. He does it “for me”, carrying me in him.
This means that you and I are contemporaries of any event we read in the Gospel.
Are you with me?
This is simply: Huge.
It is something not to be taken lightly: if somebody, of that ilk, made such things for you, you can’t just say: “Incarnation is when the Son of God takes flesh in the womb of Mary”. He didn’t just “take a human nature”. No, no. He took infinitely much more: he took you and me. Carried you and me, in Him, in his human nature. His made of his human nature our dwelling place, our tent.
The “lamb” (Jesus seen as “the Lamb”) is a word that fundamentally expresses a mystical dimension, a mystical Being who is capable of absorbing other beings in him (out of Love, and by Love). John, the one who performs Jesus’ Baptism, calls Him: “the Lamb” (see John 1:29). Of course he alludes first to the daily sacrifice of a Lamb in the Old Testament (see Exodus 29:38-42) but he certainly, by the Holy Spirit, sees further, sees the Sacrifice of the Cross.
Jesus is about to start his Mission, he enters in the river Jordan, symbol of our humanity, of the body, soul and spirit of each one of us. This is surely mystical (for the “mystical dimension” of christianity please see this article: “The unavoidable mystical dimension of Christianity”)!
This movement of union with each one of us, movement of “entering” in each one of us, a descent in us, will continue until it reaches its greatest height: the Death of Jesus on the Cross.
As you can see on the diagram below we are deepening our understanding of the steps of the Incarnation.
|3- The Journey of the Son of God is a descent in us to unite Himself with us|
Incarnation: is not only “entering in mere time and space” of the Eternal God. It is much more. It is not just entering in human nature (“taking flesh”). It is about using this “flesh” as a “Tool” in order to enter, mystically, deeper, in each human being.
The Son of God is the Redeemer, therefore, His Incarnation is finalised by this goal. The Incarnation itself, its own texture, is a journey of entering in the human being, in order to then “carry” him, inside, like a sponge, and bringing him back to God. Therefore the incarnation doesn’t end when he is born from Our Lady. It continues. He continues His journey of getting closer to us, in order to Redeem us. This is the way of Love. Love attracts and unites the one who loves, to the object of his love. “Love” is the Holy Spirit, the main Author of the Incarnation. The Holy Spirit attracts Jesus toward us, in order to be united with us. But we are darkness, half-dead, far from God, we are “sitting in darkness and the shadow of death” (Luke 1:78-79 and Is 9:1). Jesus follows this “Law” of attraction, of desire to be united, that moves Him constantly. This “Law” in Him is the Holy Spirit.
The Son of God has to reach the depths of the human being in order to be able to carry them, bring them back to the Light, to God. This is to save. It is a “physical” incarnation in the human being.
This journey of descent in us is also a journey of purification: He purifies us.
In order to do so, He proceeds by steps, stages. From outside of our being, He enters toward the deepest layers of our being.
– He purifies our body, by all the efforts of his body, his fasting, his sacrifices, his ascesis, his acceptance of the body sufferings (thirst, tiredness, …).
– He purifies our emotions (part of the soul): he loves everybody, even those that cause him a lot of pain because of their heart, which are hard like stone. He walks the extra mile in order to help the ones that need more, who’s souls are troubled. He is patient with all.
– He purifies our deepest part (the top of the soul, its “eye”, the spirit, or heart). He accepts to bear the darkness of our separation from God (“God God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:45-46)). He becomes sin (2 Co 5:21).
– He wants to reach the totality of our being, He accepts to die for us, for each one of us, realising the total exchange of His Being with ours.
The life of Jesus, his ministry, his Redemption, acts in different stages. Each main step in His life corresponds more to specific depths of His Action in us.
His Action, again, is about: getting closer to us, purifying us, transforming us into Him, all this is done by the Holy Spirit.
We can see better now the relationship between His Life, His Action in us, and the Transformation that it realises in the Apostles.
Their account (the Gospels) is not only the book that tells the story of Jesus. It is much more than that. It is the account of Jesus’ work of purification and transformation in us. The book of His descent in us, done out of His Amazing Love. The Gospels are as well the account of the transformation of the Apostles.
For instance, if one would like to follow Peter, to see how Peter followed Jesus, he’ll find these various steps of transformation in Peter:
1- First Peter is generous, entire, and leaves everything for Jesus.
2- Peter of course acts humanly. Even if his goal is divine (Jesus), like everybody, he starts by receiving Jesus’ “Milk” in the sense that he perceives what Jesus does rather in a human way. Jesus starts with him, by purifying his senses, human attachment to material things (clothes, food, pleasures, human glory…). He shows him the first steps.
3- Peter reaches the peak of this first part of his spiritual journey (see Mt 16) when he recognises, by inspiration from God, the Divinity of Jesus. This shows the journey accomplished, the first freedom he reaches, he who left everything to follow Jesus. But a lot is still to be transformed in him, he can’t go deeper unless Jesus “drags” him to it. He strongly (out of his short sighted views) refuses to accept Jesus’ death, or that anybody would even harm him. He is holding, humanly, to Jesus.
4- Jesus starts to behave differently from Peter’s perspective (Jesus heads to Jerusalem).
5- This is the peak of his change, and deep purification: when Peter has to face the apparent total loss of all what constitutes his life: Jesus. Jesus will die. Peter says he will defend him, he does so with his sword, but in the end, he doesn’t know what he is doing. He ends up, with his “human way of following Jesus”, experiencing the total weakness of his way, his total incapacity to follow Jesus. He ends up by saying: I don’t know Him. Peter reaches the peak of his purification, he experiments his nullity, his nothingness, his radical incapacity.
He then has to face Mary.
He then has to face Jesus, Risen.
Peter is now different. He knows he is nothing, and that he can’t follow Jesus, with just generosity. One needs much more.
Do you see my point? Do you see how the Gospel is the first book of “Spiritual Theology”, because it tells, by the Apostles, their autobiography, how they “followed Jesus” and the steps in following Jesus. They had the audacity, supreme audacity, of telling us their fiasco, their total, and radical failure. You do not find in any religion the sincere recognition from the first disciples of a founder of a religion of their nullity.
Nobody believed in the Resurrection! This should attract our attention to the fact that the Gospel is a kind of an “autobiography” of his first followers. Or better: the Gospel is the book of the spiritual journey of transformation of Jesus’ follower.
Do you see my point? We follow their footsteps.
Peter is really the head of the Church, not because he did this or that. He is the head, because he embodies the way of following Jesus, he shows us, in himself, in his life, the stages of “following Jesus”. His failures are normal, and they embody the curve we are all invited to follow, in order to die, and rise with Jesus. The stages of his spiritual transformation are offered clearly to all of us.
Please do read and meditate on the above diagram (click on it to enlarge it). See the stages of Jesus’ descent in us. Try to see how Jesus in fact, after his Incarnation, is still entering deeper and deeper in us, in Peter. See the quotes you find on the diagram that help understand the different stages.