Saturday, March 30, 2019

Jesus Changes Everything

I spend a lot of time philosophizing, and attempting to express what I've learned.  It tends to come out as if it were all my own idea.  And I often seem to be trying to arrive at Christianity's conclusions from first principles alone.

But had Christ not shown up in the middle of history, I would be alone with my speculation.

I feel like I'm wending my way toward Him, when He is the starting point.  But the starting point feels too essential, and therefore too large, for me to comprehend or express.  I yearn to exist in Him, in this revealed place, and I'm certainly sharing in it and benefiting from it.  But I feel like I wind around ideas, hoping to arrive at a proper attribution but never manage to land in the right place.  I can come around to my love for Him, but I feel I'm never arriving somewhere that properly points toward Him.

So I want to give credit to the One who loves mankind, to the triple radiance, to the creator of all, and particularly to his only begotten Son, our Lord and Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I want to, and I do personally, but I feel a little stuck when it comes to explaining this to others.  Perhaps this is because so many of the people in my life are outside, in that amorphous and often cold place, not having realized who Christ is.

There is an awkward contrast to explain: if I tell people how glorious it is to be in Christ, I have implied that they are in a damp, clammy place, outside Him.  It would be untrue to deny that conscious participation in Christ is mind-blowingly essential.  But there is something inaccurate in saying that people who are not inside are outside.  It seems more complicated than that.

I want to explain it like this: the Son of God was always there, and is therefore always here.  The Son of God, being God, is unchanged over time.  In that sense, we have always, and will always be, in the presence of God, who loves us.  Our distance in that ultimate sense is unchanged.  Or, put another way, the Incarnation did not have any impact on how much God loves us: He always did, and always will, love us.  So I can't say that Jesus changes anything about God.  All of the significance is on our side of the relationship.  Jesus does not change God, Jesus expresses something about God that was, is and will eternally be there, and He offers it to us. He makes visible the invisible.

Humanity has always yearned for communion with God, that has always been what we ultimately sought, whether we were conscious of it or not.  It has always been what would have satisfied our thirst, and to the extent we were wise, we understood God to be the answer to our deepest questions.  Our understanding of God was cloudy at the best of times but we certainly strove toward Him, and much goodness occurred as a result.

But this explanation, of human striving toward God, sounds, and is, very muddy without mentioning Christ.  He is the axis of our salvation.  He is the lever through which depth is attained in our relationship to God.  History changed, and humanity was given a solid benchmark for goodness.  Not just a cultural reference point, but a transcendent and immutable 'glowing coal' of access to the divine.  An ontological skylight has been opened up through which God's mercy shines.

His light shines on all of us, in the same way that the rain falls on both the sinful and the just.  We are all beneficiaries of His renovation of the human archetype.

Conscious participation in Christ is the most valuable aspect of my life, the most indispensable.  So I would certainly like to share it with others.  But I cannot honestly tell people they do not have what I have, that their life is a glum and depressing shadow compared to mine.  They do have everything I have, they have God's love and all that that implies.  But conscious participation makes an enormous difference, or rather, it changes everything.  How can someone already have everything, and then gain more?  What is it, exactly, that this sharing looks like?

People do have light already, there is just a profound lack of direction which makes it hard to move into that light and stay there.  I'm certainly no better than anyone else at moving into the light, but by embracing Christ I have been given access to a treasure trove of blessings, of little pushes toward the light.  Like a thousand little cherubic hands pushing me into the shaft of light that was already there.  They push quite softly against my coarse and self-intoxicated habits, which are much worse than most others'.  But all it takes is one micro-glimpse of their goodness, a few subtle hints about which way one ought to be pushed, a cursory review of 'the New Adam', and one suddenly finds oneself to be 'mysteriously advantaged'.

Is there a way I can concisely convey my experiences which have validated the fact that Jesus Christ is God's revelation to mankind of Himself?  The words themselves, as I recall from having been outside them, seem abstract or even platitudinous, or culturally specific.  One has to step inside them, into their history and context, to realize they convey tangible, mystical truth, and not just any truth, but an absolutely radiant, life giving spring of Truth with a very capital "T".

If all one gets is a sound bite, it is not likely that one will find a better set of words than those which have been used for millennia.  If the audience has become hostile to those words, no sound bite is going to get through their defenses.  If the hostility comes from having lost the basic tools of interiority, then those first need to be restored.  If it comes from having embraced a fundamentally hostile set of views any synonymous verbiage will only serve as a trigger.

Views which are hostile to Truth are ultimately false, of course.  But falsity is inherently complex and twisted, and special techniques may be required for its untangling.  I feel that God puts food out for us, even when we are all tangled up in our self-damaging vortexes of delusion, in the hope that we might smell it, untangle ourselves, and have a bite.  Likewise, there are simple morsels of truth that we can express which might serve as seeds for others.

For example...

While it is true that He was born of a virgin, it's an awkward place to begin the conversation.  But from the inside, this piece of information is nothing less than a potent explosion of remembrance, a living symbol of our own purity reborn, of the promise of liberation from our own passions.  It is a challenge to our corrupt adult selves who have settled for fallen nature as if it were all there was.  It is a trumpet in the distance, calling ourselves to be fully human.  Maybe it isn't obvious, but virginal birth is a paradox, like the 8th day of the week, or for the master to be the servant and vice versa.  If a person can put aside their habituation to naturalism and consider for a moment what it "would mean if it were true", the depth can begin to be conveyed.  This birth genuinely includes humanity, one could say 'through the mother', but it is a transcendent motherhood.  It is a seedless birth, and the closest way we have of understanding it from a father-like perspective is that we have to completely give up our attachments, our lusts, our expectations, and serve.  It involves a total sublimation of personal will.  But it is still a birth that includes our humanity.  Through our surrender to God's love, we are included.  He took flesh from us.  His existence as man was contingent on our participation.  On our loving surrender to love itself, to something higher than what our own God-seeking will could reach on its own.

All this is condensed for us into 4 little words, "born of a virgin".  As a sound bite they inspire believers but unfortunately seem to push away those outside, though their content is nothing less than a morsel from God, left out for us in case we should decide to heed the loving parental call to finally come to dinner.

The truth does not need to be modernized.  God does not need to change, we do.

Does this mean that in order to bring the manna of God's Word to people, one has to first re-educate them in basic mysticism?  Or to blast away at the fundamental errors in popular thinking?  Or does one simply present it, in very small pieces, and wrap it up in just enough of the right kind of explanatory language that help people to understand its depth and applicability?

Perhaps all three.  But the Word will bring Himself to people.  All I can do is sublimate my will, acknowledging that the only way for me to have any part in Christ is to say 'let it be to me according to thy word'.

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