My friend and former colleague Rob Marsh SJ wrote powerful and thought provoking piece on the incarnation a year ago. (You can find the full text here).
Rob suffers from a chronic illness. I am not sure exactly when illness began, but I met him sometime in the early throes of his health problems back in 2003. His post is entitled ‘Hating Incarnation’ and explores his struggle with and against his own body in the light of the incarnation.
What I found arresting in reading Rob’s post was his honest and painful opening declaration. ‘I hate my body’. Rob is one of the most intellectually and spiritually gifted men I have known. But the wider community has been deprived of his potential contribution because of his illness. I have felt that frustration, but only as a witness and potential partner. Never from the inside. I only have a glimpsed inkling of what it must be to live his reality.
And yet God chooses to become flesh. God chooses to immerse Godself in and express Godself through one of these most vulnerable of bodies. To embrace fatigue, hunger, limitation and acute vulnerability.
In the Spiritual Exercises there is a beautiful meditation where the Trinity discuss what to do about humanity. Looking down at all the chaos and craziness they hatch a plan – the incarnation.
I have not suffered in the way that Rob has. But for the last eighteen months I have had the double whammy of both a frozen shoulder and hip impingement. I read Rob’s post in a different way this year to the way I did last year. I begin to see the extraordinary risk in the chosen strategy in a new light.
God actually became flesh in the person of Jesus. This was the inspired plan?? Really??
And yet just as I have read Rob’s post in a slightly different way because of my own journey this year, I recognise that there was no other way. In the person of Jesus we have access to God in a new way. And in the person of Jesus, God knows what it is to be human.
I think that thought will keep me going through Advent.
The Incarnation …. Really?? Really!