Friday, December 26, 2014

The Incarnation

"The body, and it alone, and only the body is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial, and thus to be a sign of it." ~ John Paul II

These words are on my mind this Christmas season. In the Incarnation, Christ made visible the invisible God. Suddenly we can see and touch Him. Well, I suppose we can't in 2014 (other than in the Eucharist), but Mary and Joseph could. The shepherds and the kings could. The disciples and the crowds could. They could see Him and cry out to Him and reach for His robe. They could scourge Him and beat Him and nail Him to a cross.

Sometimes I think that Christmas is lost on me a bit. The story is so familiar that I almost can't hear it. What I mean is, the familiar words often fail to pique the thought or attention that they so richly deserve. This Christmas, I have been trying to spend a little time thinking about "Emmanuel", or "God is with us".  This is part of what I think of, that His being present in the world allowed for this interaction with people every day during His life.

I've also been thinking a lot about the body, and how it makes visible what is invisible in every person. As a physical therapist, I notice a lot about the way that people move. I find it fascinating the way emotions play out in physiological responses in the body. Likewise, physical pains and pressures often lead to anxiety and depression. Someone standing up straight tends to have more confidence. Do they have confidence because they stand straight, or do they stand straight because they have confidence? Who knows, but I think that we can actually help improve confidence by trying to stand straighter. Or improve a bad mood by smiling. And so forth.

Christ became flesh, and dwelt among us.

He didn't come in the flesh to save our souls from the shackles of our flesh, but to redeem us, all of us, including our bodies.  It's just an interesting thing to think about. There are so many things that make more sense to me if I think about the person in terms of the body and soul being parts of a whole, or even almost not separate entities. If you think that way, then you clearly cannot love your neighbor and not do anything about it if they are cold and hungry. Because what is happening to them on a physical level matters.

I don't know, my brain is going in a lot of directions on this. But what I'm getting this Christmas is that God is with us, in the flesh. Such an old message, but it is striking me in some new ways. Maybe if I can make more sense of it, I will be able to share more later.


  1. That is beautiful. I haven't heard that quote in awhile, but it made me think of and miss JPII!!! SO beautiful. Thank goodness that Jesus redeems our souls and bodies. It is incredible to think about. I have also been thinking this Advent of how hard it is to receive, actually appropriate and internalize, Jesus' mercy and love. I have been thinking of how awesome it is that he came as a baby in order to help us receive his love. It's hard to reject a little, helpfuless baby. Jesus came so humbly to help me receive him, but still something I need to work on.

  2. I know what you mean about things (Christmas, prayers, etc) sometimes being lost and not truly "getting it." Makes total sense. It is something I don't think my wee-brain can completely wrap my head around, but your reflection helps tremendously!
    It would have been wonderful to be there with Jesus and see him in person! I can't imagine how awesome that would be!