Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Inscape should not escape us.

I found this image on-line. We had a copy of it hanging up in the parish center of my first assignment.

For today's homily at Mass, I reflected upon the seeming incongruity between the season of Lent and the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Lent stirs up thoughts of penance and sacrifice and struggle. The Annunciation is a moment of exquisite joy because the long-awaited redemption of Israel is announced, is under way. It looks badly matched if one looks no deeper than the surface of the events. But if we pentrate into the inscape (a word coined by Caryl Houselander, a contemporary English theologian), we see the true threads of what is beginning here.

1. The Self-Emptying has begun. Throughout the history of Israel, prophets and visionaries hid their faces when God would be made manifest. To see the face of God is to die. Further, there was no place where God exclusively was. Certainly, God would make it clear that He was with His people through signs and wonders. But those were fleeting moments. And now, that is not true. God reveals that He has a face -- the face of the Son. And this flesh is not a mask or a put-on. It is the humanity of His immaculate Mother he bears. "A tender rose from tender branch has sprung." And now for the moment of the incipient Incarnation we can see that God has pitched His tent amongst us. The God whom the universe dare not contain welcomes to be enclosed in the womb of a mother.

2. Abandonment to the Will of God is manifested. The stage is set in all cases by this willingness to serve another. For the Son who becomes incarnate, He only does what He has been doing, even doing what He is, from all Eternity, submitting to the Father and returning to the Father the very gift of Himself. Because of this surrender to the will of the Father, the woman, the marvelous immaculate woman, both shows how Adam and Eve should have once submitted and shows how we are to submit even now. The particular irony is the exchange of submission between the Mother and the Son. The Son submits to the Father and so is incarnated in the Woman. The Woman must submit before the Incarnation can happen. As the child is raised, even though He is God, she will teach Him all the things a child must learn. He, in His human nature, can grow and develop without suffering ontological change in his divine person. This means, that the Woman teaches the Son through her own work of submission. The Son in turn shows her the depth such a surrender must touch. How much surrender must be motivated by love! And back and forth between them. Their mutual love for the Eternal Father keeps coming out in the phrase, "Your will be done" or "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word."

3. He still waits to be born. Baptism makes us mothers of the Word, one of the early Church Fathers observed. The seal of Baptism marks as though live the life of God through burial in the death of the Lord. Confirmation marks us with the Holy Spirit to bear all things to fulfill the mission Christ gives us. The Holy Eucharist rests upon our innards, weighty as an embryonic child, but waiting, waiting to spring up to life and to be manifested. Yes, we too are made pregnant bearers of the Word, our bellies swollen with his Heart's Blood. But why have we not given birth? Is it because we are not enough like the woman of the Annunciation? We have not given birth because we have not emptied enough of ourselves. We have not given birth because we love not the will of the Father before all things. We have not given birth because we selfishly clutch at the goodness of Christ poured out to us as though it were only for us. It is for all to be distributed by us.

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