Friday, March 25, 2011

Announcement of Union

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Incarnation. I’m in the middle of a class on heresies, and most of them tie back into the Incarnation—either directly (e.g., Arianism) or indirectly (e.g., Theopaschitism). Since I’ve spent the last 12 weeks or so reading about how the early Church struggled to figure out who Jesus Christ really was/is (and how we still have a hard time with it), I’ve become far more “Incarnational” in my approach to faith. And I must confess that it’s a pretty exciting development in my own spiritual life.

We don’t believe that God sent his Son to earth in the form of a human—looking like, talking like, acting like a man—but that God actually became human. Jesus Christ is the God-Man. He’s as human as you or I. And the more I think about that the more I realize how that is the foundation of our salvation. When God became man, God united the divine with the human. And the only logical consequence of that union is that the human must be changed—purified, burnished, made clean. And through the refinement of the human nature united to the divine in Christ’s death and resurrection, we are invited to have our human nature united with the divine through baptism and made pure as we are sanctified. All of that “old time religion” I grew up hearing about finally makes sense as an Episcopalian—and all because of a fuller recognition on my part of the Incarnation.

For me, today’s feast day, the Feast of the Annunciation, has always been a passing thought. Sure, it’s important. And I’ve always acknowledged its amazing qualities: the virgin hears the angel say to her, “You have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.” But, until now, the Annunciation has always played second fiddle to other religious observances like the Nativity (Dec. 25) and the Crucifixion and Resurrection (Good Fri. & Easter). Yet this year, having been bathed anew in the importance of the Incarnation, I see the Annunciation as a truly earth-shattering moment. And it’s kind of humorous to me that I’ve been doing this whole Christian thing (and priest thing) for a while and have only now shown up at this party.

Today we celebrate the Incarnation. We celebrate God uniting to himself the lowest, meagerest, most broken part of humanity—our very human nature. And in so doing God declares again that our nature is good. And he declares it even more fully than on the sixth day of Creation. This time, God allows humanity to be something that is not completely other. He takes it onto himself. He makes a union of God and man that has eternal consequences. And all of that starts when a young girl says to an angel, “Let it be with me according to your word.” She said, “Yes,” and the human and divine were forever united to each other in an unthinkable, unimaginable, unbreakable union.

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