Monthly Archives: December 2016

Joyful is the dark

Today is the first day of winter and tonight is the longest night of the year, the winter solstice.  These last couple weeks I’ve been pleasantly surprised to hear a number of people comment how much they like the darkness of this season.  Darkness can simplify life.  Darkness gives us permission to rest.  Darkness invites inward exploration.

It reminds me of a hymn, written by Brian Wren: “Joyful is the dark, holy hidden God, rolling cloud of night beyond all naming, majesty in darkness, energy of love, Word-in-flesh, the mystery proclaiming” (HWB 233).

It won’t get any darker, longer, than tonight.

And then come tomorrow, we’re already turning toward the light.  Days are already stretching, first unnoticeably, then with increasing measure.

2016 has been quite a wild ride around the sun.  As a child of this culture, trained to think of time as linear, it can be liberating to accept the cycles and circles of the natural world.  Darkness is not all joyful, and our tilted planet provides a built in opportunity to make the most of the darkness even as we begin to watch for the light.  It is happening whether we watch for it or not, so we might as well pay attention.

It’s been an honor to journey with you all this past year.  We’ve confronted some difficult things together as we’ve committed to becoming more conscious of how racialization has affected all of our lives.  I, for one, have learned and grown in unexpected ways, and for that I’m grateful.

This will be the final blog of the year.  Abbie and I and the girls will be traveling to Kansas after the service on Christmas Sunday, staying with her family for a week.  Best wishes to you all as you join together with family, remember and grieve those not present in body, accept the gift of the darkness, and welcome the light.

 

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Incarnatio continua

 

The word incarnation captures well the mystery of Advent and Christmas.  Through incarnation, the Divine takes on flesh, and becomes a touchable presence.  Western Christianity has emphasized the uniqueness of Jesus as the incarnate One, an outpouring and overflowing of the love of the Father/Mother/Source of All Being.

Eastern Christianity has highlighted our own participation in incarnation.

Raimon Panikkar was the son of a Spanish Roman Catholic mother and Indian Hindu father.  As a theologian he bridged those worlds.  He writes frequently of an idea I’ve found extremely helpful, especially as someone who embraces religious pluralism.  Panikkar speaks of incarnatio continua, incarnation as a continuous and ongoing process.  The aim of the spiritual life is not merely to accept a set of truths (about the incarnation of Jesus, for example), but to welcome into one’s own being the experience of God that Jesus had.  What we refer to as Christ was both a historical event in Jesus, and a reality available to everyone.  To be caught up in incarnatio continua involves a continual emptying and filling, the pattern of death and resurrection that the Apostle Paul proclaims.  We too participate in ‘sonship’ and ‘daughtership’ of God.

Pannikar writes: “I would like to reassure Christians that they will lose nothing of the profundity of the Christian tradition by renouncing a certain monopoly of Christ” (Christophany p. 51).

What Christians celebrate at Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, is a revelation of the vastness and availability of the Love which generates all of us into being.  We not only gaze on incarnation as a historical artifact, but open ourselves to incarnatio continua, the Divine inhabiting in ever increasing measure our mortal and precious bodies.