Tag Archive | Incarnation

INCARNATION REVISITED

INCARNATION REVISITED: GROWING INTO ECOSPIRITUALITY

 

This guest blog by Judy Talvaccia* is adapted from Judy’s article in the newsletter of the Holy Child Associates, USA. Judy responds to a reflection about the spirit of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ), the congregation started by Cornelia Connelly  cc_round (http://www.mayfieldsenior.org/about/Cornelia-Connelly), of which Judy is an Associate — and I am a member. Readers will relate to her experiences with ecospirituality and also find enrichment for understanding Pope Francis’ enclyclical Laudato Si. 

The SHCJ Charism 

A charism is defined as “a specific grace, a free gift granted for the common good, for building up the Body and Kingdom of Christ in love.” Our wildly generous God gives an abundance of gifts to individuals and to communities – all in the service of bringing about the fullness of God’s reign of love.

The gift given to Cornelia, and through her to the SHCJ and to us, lies in the name Society of the Holy Child Jesus. The Incarnation roots and grounds us in the merciful God who became human as a vulnerable child. Through the Holy Child, we understand that nothing is too humble or hidden for divinity not to be present and active. The charism helps us to see God in the most unexpected people, places and things and to respond to the sacred presence we recognize.

Early Religious Education 

mary-baby-jesusMy religious education began in the pre-Vatican II Church. I learned  that the Incarnation was “God the Father sending his son down from heaven to save human beings from our sins.” In my experience, the focus of the Incarnation was on the person; that is, Jesus became human to free me and all human beings from the consequences of sin. That resonated with me since, from a very young age, I was sensitive to the needs of others and fascinated by what makes people tick, what makes them who they are.

I loved learning about other cultures – how different people can be and yet how much we have in common. That may be part of the reason why the charism of the SHCJ attracted me. It spoke to something very deep in me about finding God in anyone and everyone. I learned, as the article says, that “…nothing truly human is foreign.” Although I enjoyed and appreciated the non-human world, my passion was always people.

Creation Spirituality 

The recent insights of science and of creation spirituality have deeply challenged my lived experience of the Incarnation. My head tells me that much of what I am learning makes perfect sense. But try as I might, I don’t feel as passionate about ecological projects as I do about, for example, supporting children in the Dominican Republic. Even so, God has been drawing me slowly but surely towards a more expansive understanding of the Incarnation.

Two thoughts in the article spoke to me about the strategy God seems to be using in my spiritual journey. The idea that we have responsibility, not just for humans, but for “all that touches the human” has ignited my curiosity about what those things are and how they affect people. God is showing me that if I want to support people, I cannot do it without supporting the natural world.

But God draws me even deeper to see that “the expansion of our very selves, as well as of all creation are inextricably intertwined.” I am realizing that humans need to support the well being of the natural world for its own sake as well, if Love’s reign is to be accomplished. All of God’s creation needs to flourish!

 The Cosmic Christ 

The biggest stumbling block for me, however, is the concept of the Cosmic Christ weepingmotherofgodofthesignatnovgorod– the Christ who came to save the entire universe, the Christ whose Body includes all of creation. I believe in the resurrected Christ, living and active, but my image of him is still the man portrayed in the Gospels. I don’t want to give up a personal relationship with Jesus! I can’t relate to him as a disembodied cosmic force.

Fortunately, Jesus has been patiently teaching me and drawing me closer to his resurrected life. When I traveled to the Holy Land, I was struck by the commercialism of many of the pilgrim sites. It was hard at times to identify with Jesus in his life on this earth, in the face of so many distractions. I complained in prayer, “Why did I come here if I can’t be immersed in what your earthly life was like?” Jesus directed my attention to the reality around me as if to say, “I’m happy that you came to the land where I lived, but I also want you to see me as I exist today – in the people, places and things around you; this is my Body today!” Since then, I have become more aware of the risen Christ who lives and acts in all of creation. And to my surprise, the more I do that, the closer I feel to Jesus and to the God he embodies.

OroValleyWildFlowersOf course, it’s still a challenge – sometimes in the most unexpected ways. I was on retreat and walking along a beautiful country road. Wild flowers were in bloom everywhere. While admiring them, I thought about how Christ is present in each of them. But I could feel my spirit resist. “I don’t want a relationship with a flower petal when I want to be close to you, Jesus.” With sublime irony, Jesus responded to my spirit, “Don’t you experience a deeply personal connection with me in the Eucharistic bread and wine?” Touché!

Embracing the Unfolding Mystery 

So I willingly and joyfully, but with a hint of trepidation, join the Sisters in “embracing on a fresh level the mystery of Incarnation and Creation as united revelation of the greatness and goodness and Allness of God.” I am grateful for the confidence to respond generously to God’s invitation; to explore new facets of the Incarnation with trust that God is leading me to fuller life and love. I commit myself to be one of the “ones chosen now to make known the reality of the Incarnation ever being revealed and newly understood.”
Cake 1-3

*Judy Talvacchia is a chaplain and spiritual director in Boston, MA.

If you relate to Judy’s experiences, please share in Comments.

Advent Group Resource

ADVENT

Although we’ve not yet celebrated Hallowe’en or Thanksgiving, some are already planning for Advent, Nativitythe first season of the Christian church year devoted to preparing to celebrate Christmas. Christmas, in turn, celebrates the Incarnation, the embodiment of divinity in Jesus’ humanity. (Cf. my Advent blog Nov. 17, 2013.)

The Incarnation is a Mystery that a lifetime of contemplation would not exhaust. Advent is the time when we are specifically called to deepen this contemplation. Many individuals and groups use various materials to help them use well this prayer time. My contribution is Advent in the New Universe Story. It offers one page per week to explore the place and significance of the Christian story within the 13.8 billion years of creation. Theologians and others are writing about the transitions needed for this integration, and these Advent pages contain some of their insights.

Advent in the New Universe Story will be available in French and Spanish as well as in English. The English version is now available.

The four weeks include the following:
New Consciousness, New Christian Understanding
The Cosmos Prepares for New Life
Evolving Understanding of Humanity’s Place in Creation
Incarnation Revisited

Universe-Sandbox-20130429-185438The resource contains suggestions for the convener, and the weeks include excerpts from that Sunday’s Scripture readings, information, time for prayer and for sharing, and suggestions for further reading.

I am indebted to the Society of the Holy Child for supporting my ministry and, for Advent in the New Universe Story, to T.J. Murphy for checking the science, to John Surette, S.J. for checking the theology, and to Nancy Frommelt, O.S.F. for fine tuning the text. I am also indebted to those who gather to use my resources; their feedback contributes significantly to future resources.

To find this resource, go to Advent on my website.

Exploration into God

The last two lines of Christopher Frey’s Sleep of Prisoners is a call to the great need of our time:
Affairs are now soul-size;images
The enterprise is exploration into God.

“God” has been imaged and worshiped in many
ways by humans over our thousands of years of history and throughout the Earth. Many religious seekers have realized changes in their own sense of the Mystery we call God. (This is often referred to as “stages of faith.”) In our time, when “affairs are soul-sized” and participation in the Great Work is growing, understandings of Incarnation have deepened.

What follows are quotes from theologians and others who have written about this. Following the last quote are questions for reflection/prayer:

Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ: God is Holy Mystery and as such can never be captured in a single image or set of images.

Joseph A. Bracken: God, the world of nature, and the world of human beings are intimately interconnected and interdependent.

Margaret Galiardi, OP: Although more and more people are realizing that we cannot continue to treat the Earth as we have done in the past, the prior realization of the presence of God dwelling within the planet [and all creation], and the consequent intrinsic value of the planet, is still seriously lacking.

Mary Ann Zollmann, BVM: As incarnations of that in-spiriting Mystery at the heart of being . . . each one of us is most deeply and spiritually a unique narrative form unfolding within the common narrative of Mystery’s life and being.

Philip Clayton: Theories of the divine agent (theologies) have strongly influenced how human persons were conceived (the imago dei argument). But just as clearly, ideas about what humankind is . . . have provided models for how God is to be conceived. In an age of absolute monarchy and male dominance, God was naturally conceived as the King of Kings; in an age of deterministic physics, God was known as the divine watchmaker, the ground of order and lawfulness; and in an age of dualism, God became pure spirit, pure mind (nous noetikos), independent of all things physical. In an age of emergence, how should the divine be conceived?

images-1For reflection: 

What thoughts above resonated with you?

How did you think of God when you were a child? How do you think of God now? If your understanding and images changed, how did/does that change you?

What effect does your present relationship with the divine mystery have on your relationships with people and the entire planet?

How do you feel about “unfolding within the common narrative of Mystery’s life and being”?