I thought that I might share with you a small excerpt from my forthcoming book, Word Without End, which is due to come out sometime out this spring. The book treats the Splendor of the Incarnation (as I call it) in depth and, since Christmas is the celebration of the God’s Incarnation as man, I thought a sneak preview might constitute a nice Christmas meditation. The following section is taken from Chapter 2 of Word Without End:
Every person must answer the question, “who is Jesus Christ,” for himself or herself. Unless we affirm in our hearts that Jesus is the Incarnate word of God then his work of redemption has little effect on us. The world today would like to reduce Jesus Christ to a noble historical figure not unlike Confucius or Buddha. Such a pretense makes him comfortably palatable without becoming controversial. It is also an absurd pretension in light of what he actually proclaimed. This is the same man who said “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” (Jn. 6:53) It is hard to imagine a more controversial or radical statement from any religious figure, no matter how respected. Any other figure in history would be completely discredited at best; more likely considered a madman, for even suggesting such a thing. Then ask yourself, what is the likelihood that any madman could still claim over one billion followers after 2,000 years?
Jesus can only be reconciled to history and our common experience on the terms he himself laid down. In any other context, his life and teachings become a bizarre, surreal, and hopelessly jumbled narrative. If he is to be understood at all it must be as someone fully human and yet a wholly divine ~ God become a man. No halfway position can possibly pass any rational muster. Nonbelievers often attempt to pass him off as some enlightened, virtuous reformer. Nothing could be more dishonest because such a position willfully ignores his controversial claim to divinity, which pitted even his own followers against one another. If the gospels are true eyewitness accounts, then Jesus Christ must truly be either the Son of God or else, he is a lunatic suffering from delusions of grandeur. One cannot accept him halfway and hope to maintain any consistency of logic.
Significantly, Jesus never wrote a book. The only record we have of him writing is in the sand as he sat before the woman accused of adultery. This is curious in light of the emphasis that Evangelical Christians places on the Bible. Christ certainly could have composed the New Testament, but he inexplicably left this task to his followers, long after his death and resurrection. Would it not carry more weight if he himself had authored it? Not necessarily. Jesus in fact produced his testament, not inscribed on parchment but written in blood. He composed it the night before his fearful passion, at the Last Supper. It was a ritual testimony, sealed the very next day in his own blood on the cross. Jesus left his legacy in the form of a tradition, not a tract, when he commanded his apostles, “do this in memory of me.” (Lk. 22:19)
The Incarnation is the fulcrum of human history. Without it the gloom and pessimism of nihilists and agnostics, both ancient and modern, is fully justified. But God not only truly exists, he came down to dwell with his people. The Incarnation is the defining event that turned our inevitable defeat into consummate victory. The Incarnation dispels the darkness and initiates the process of restoring the light of God to the world. That is why Christians celebrate the major feast of God’s Incarnation as a man on Christmas, just after the winter solstice. A tiny light has entered the world that will grow and replicate itself until its dazzling brilliance penetrates every dark corner of the universe. Christmas is the season of lights because the Light of the world, Emmanuel, has come to illumine those who dwell in the darkness. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Is 9:1)
Yet it is not only at Christmas but during every Mass that we celebrate and commemorate the Incarnation. In fact, each celebration of the Mass is a virtual re-enactment of the Incarnation. Every time a priests solemnly pronounces the words “This Is My Body,” and “This Is The Chalice Of My Blood,” the Word of God assumes a substantial, material form just as he did on that first Christmas night. The Creator of the world, a Being pure in substance and without accidents, takes on physical accidents by entering the world in a bodily form so that our human senses can perceive and be comforted by his Real Presence. At every Mass the miracle of the Incarnation is re-presented before our very senses. We need not have been present at Fatima in 1917, nor even in Palestine some 2,000 years ago in order to witness a true miracle. Every Mass is a miracle that we perceive, not only with our bodily senses, but more importantly with our spiritual senses.
To know Jesus fully we must embrace him in the Eucharist, otherwise we can only know about him. It is in the Eucharist that we experience him as we would a loving spouse. Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Word of God who came into history as our Savior. In a more personal sense he is our bridegroom, our redeemer, and the main figure in God’s love story of the world. Anything less would be anti-climatic.
A blessed and joyful Christmas to you all! And don’t forget that Christmas only begins on December 25. It continues thru the Feast of the Epiphany which is January 3rd, 2016, so don’t be breaking down your Christmas trees on Dec. 26. Otherwise, people will think you’re a heathen. Our job is to uphold Christian culture and tradition, not to hasten its demise. So an Extended and Merry Christmas to all!
Fran Pierson +a.d.m.g.