The preconception that what is most improbable in the world is also impossible for God conceals the tacit presupposition that it is impossible both for God to reach into earthly history and for earthly history to reach him. His field of influence will be limited to the realm of the spirit. And with this we have landed back in pagan philosophy such as Aristotle elaborated with a singular logic; prayer and every relation to God is, in his view, ‘cultivation of the self.’ If in the final analysis this is reality, nothing but the ‘cultivation of the self’ can remain.
, 60 Zion
Reflection – This passage from this wonderful little book is from a section discussing the virgin birth of Christ from Mary, and the modern scepticism that such a thing could be possible, the ridicule heaped on the idea or the flat refusal to admit the prospect of such a thing happening that is fairly normal today.
It is both Advent season and the eve of the Immaculate Conception, when we celebrate Mary’s own beginnings in her mother’s womb free from the stain of original sin. It is this whole business that Ratzinger so ably brings out here in a few short phrases: is God acting? Can God act? Does He want to intervene in our human affairs, or does He just let them go, let us go our own natural way?
It is in Jesus and his miraculous conception and birth, and the singular grace given Mary to prepare her for this, that we are asked to believe in a God who does reach down into human history, does intervene, does act in time and space on our behalf.
And this is not just some interesting historical curio—oh, didja hear about that one time a virgin got pregnant? Amazing! It is not just some vague hope on our part that God might some day maybe perhaps you know intervene in our lives, if we really happen to need this at some point.
God is radically intervening in your life and my life today. Maybe not in a ‘miracle’, such as we finite human beings can recognize. But the whole point, the whole order of things, the whole structure of reality—and it is really is only Jesus and his Mother who reveal this to us—is that humanity is constantly responding to the intervention of God, the action of God, the reaching down, breaking in, ‘interference’ of God into our affairs.
A home invasion—from our fallen human condition, that’s what it seems like. God is constantly kicking in the door, surging in on us with power and might, shock and awe. An incursion, an assault, like that strange wrestling match Jacob had with the ‘man’ who was an ‘angel’ who was ‘God’ (Gen 32).
I was a little snarky about Santa Claus yesterday in my post (‘bloated wreck’ was the offending phrase, I believe). But actually there is something about the tubby elf that corresponds to this—the annual burglar coming down the chimney of every home, not to steal and despoil, but to leave gifts and joy. God is the house breaker, the heart breaker, the life breaker—but he comes not to rob and ruin, but to bless and bestow.
He comes to make our homes, our hearts, our lives bigger than they were. We see this so clearly in Mary, the virginal young girl of
. She becomes Mother of God, Queen of heaven and earth, hailed by a thousand titles and adorned with every honor and blessing the human race can give her and the divine favour as well. Nazareth
But… God wants to do something similar with you and me, too. Mary is unique and most highly favored, but God is busting in on us today, too. And He busts in on us through the call to love, to pray, to listen, to surrender, to abandon our lives to Him. To abandon all other concerns but to please Him, follow Him, serve Him, love Him, and to earnestly seek the way to do this in the love and service of our brothers and sisters.God comes to us in all this, and makes it all so much bigger than we could conceive, as Jesus in Mary’s womb was so much greater than what she could conceive. And this is the hope, and the desire, we are to cultivate in Advent, and Mary stands ready to help us stir up this desire, deepen this hope, and open our hearts, homes, and lives to the saving power of God.