Musings on the Mystery of the Incarnation

In the last session of our parish ‘Growing in Faith’ group we traced through the Scriptures of the Old Testament referring to the promises made to Israelites about the coming of the ‘Messiah’ and their hopes, and expectations.

We pondered and shared on the texts in the light of the Jews rejection of Jesus and our own understanding of the mystery of the ‘Incarnation,’ - the, Word made Flesh, God become Man, Emanuel A deep discussion followed. During the course of the discussion one participant expressed her unease and dislike of the words in a popular hymn:


 ‘And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
sent him to die. I scarce can take it in
that on the cross, my burden gladly bearing
he bled and died to take away my sin.’


I think there was general consensus of sharing in that feeling in our group and a sense that sometimes the way our doctrine is expressed portrays God in a rather negative way. Time ran out on us but I am sure we all went home thinking deeply about the great mystery which we are celebrating at this time.

I certainly did. It has continued to occupy my thoughts and prayers and the liturgies of Advent have fed into it so that when I come to prepare a Christmas Reflection for our website my topic seems obvious.

Karl Rahner speaks of God as, incomprehensible, inexpressible Holy Mystery. Yet, because we humans are gifted by, God with mind - with memory, understanding and will, we are called to think, to ponder, to discern, to discus and share about the nature of God, his purposes for us and for all of his creation and about our responses to God.

While thinking about the emphasis in our doctrine on sin and salvation as reflected in the words of the hymn noted above, an insight came to me from a question in the Catechism we used as childrenlearnt as a child:

“Are these three persons three Gods? No, these three persons are not three Gods they are all one and the same God.” 

 Rationally we believe that God, (Three Persons in one God) made the decision that God would communicate God’s self to his creation in the person of the Son to be named Jesus and who was truly God and truly man.

 We have only our human language, concepts and limited knowledge to fathom something of this Holy Mystery we call God. When the Word was made Flesh an d came to live among us Jesus taught us how to speak to God as Father. Jesus, as man, had the need to communicate with God and he spoke, to God, and about God, as his Father. When his Apostles watched him at prayer they asked “Lord teach us to pray” He taught them and all of us the prayer – ‘Our Father who art in Heaven ...’ This was a request for which humankind will be eternally grateful.

I am not sure if the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is expressed  clearly in the Old Testament. God seemed in those times to communicate with man through angels and dreams.

The first hint of God as Trinity comes early in the New Testament when the Angel Gabrielle appeared to Mary. During his conversation he said:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” Luke 1:35

At the Baptism of Jesus We receive the fullest revelation of this mystery: 

 ‘At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”’
Mark 1:9-11

I wonder if this revelation became needful only at the advent of The Incarnation. Through this revelation of the Blessed Trinity Jesus taught us new ways of communicating and relating to God. We relate in awe to the Holy Mystery that is God, we relate in simplicity to the Father who loves us as his children, we seek guidance, wisdom and enlightenment from the Holy Spirit and we relate to Jesus as our brother and friend who came among us understands our humanity and remains present to us through the Eucharist.

 

We are deeply grateful for Christ’s coming among us, in this great mystery of Incarnation. In our hearts though, we are at times troubled about the nature of his death and the sense of responsibility for it. Jesus words to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus are reassuring. He said to them,

 “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”’ Luke 24:25-26

Maybe in pondering exclusively, the mystery of and Christ’s redemptive suffering we lose sight of the bigger picture. Jesus’ prayer to his Father the night before he died gives us a more comprehensive insight. It seems to sum up the whole purpose of his life and God’s overall plan or design for his creatures. See John Chapter 17.
The following verses I find particularly helpful.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me that they may be one as we are one I in them and you in me -so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Jn.17:20-23

I think this prayer of Jesus to the Father gives us insight into the mystery of the Incarnation. God became man to communicate God's desire for total union with us, to teach us the way of love and repentance and to lead us into the Unity of the Trinity and to share in his Glory. It gives me great hope too, for surely God would not refuse the prayer of his Son.

It would seem then that our work, our ministry is to create love and unity among all peoples and nations and spread his message of love and forgiveness near, far and wide.
Camilla Hunt  rsm