Saturday, March 16, 2013

The God Who Strips Himself Naked

God could give no greater gift to men than to make his Word, through whom he created all things, their head and to join them to him as his members, so that the word might be both Son of God and son of man, one God with the Father and one man with all men.
The result is that when we speak with God in prayer we do not separate the Son from him, and when the body of the Son prays it does not separate its head from itself: it is the one Savior of his body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who prays for us and in us and is himself the object of our prayers.
He prays for us as our priest, he prays in us as our head, he is the object of our prayers as our God. Let us recognize both our voice in his, and his voice in ours. When something is said, especially in prophecy, about the Lord Jesus Christ that seems to belong to a condition of lowliness unworthy of God, we must not hesitate to ascribe this conditon to one who did not hesitate to unite himself with us...
Our thoughts then must be awakened to keep their vigil of faith. We must realize that the one whom we were contemplating a short time before in his nature as God took to himself the nature of a servant; he was made in the likeness of men and found to be a man like others; he humbled himself by being obedient even in accepting death... Himself unchanged, he took to himself our created nature in order to change it, and made us one man with himself, head and body.
St. Augustine, Office of Readings, Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Reflection - One thing I do want to do with this new blog is to periodically include snippets from the Office of Readings of the Church. Daily the Church offers a rich banquet of patristic and other writings in the divine office; it is a constant offering of wisdom and light that sadly goes unused by the mass of Catholic Christians.

I include this today since we are heading with this evening's opening of the Fifth Sunday of Lent into Passiontide, the final two weeks of Lent when the Church turns its gaze more and more intently to the figure of the humiliated Christ, the lowly one, the poor man who is God from God, Light from Light, the God who strips himself naked before us, the very fount of all joy and beauty who embraces pain, sorrow, disfigurement for our sake, the Deathless One who dies for us.

In the face of this Face, there are only two appropriate responses. Ultimately, we are to forsake all else to follow this man, this God wherever he leads us and to have no other concern but to live in his will and his love. But to get there, to grow to love Him that much so that we can do this, the Church has always known that we need to simply behold him. And Passiontide is all about beholding the Lamb of God, beholding the man (ecce homo!), beholding the wood of the cross.

To not turn away, to not shrug it off with a casual 'whatever', to not be blithe or heedless of it. God died for us. God became man and died for us. God united himself to us that totally - marvel of marvels. The poverty of Christ, the humility of God, the astounding path God chose to walk to save and redeem the world is our intense focus these next two weeks. There is little to say about it (not that that ever stops me from trying), little to say to God in response to it except a weak and shaky 'Thank you'.

But it seems to me that this is precisely the direction Pope Francis is guiding us towards, in his life-long focus on poverty and simplicity of life, reflected in his words and deeds of these first days of his papacy. We see a world, and a Church, beset with problems and anguish and sin. Our human tendency is to take control, to get all clever and efficient and smooth, to whip those bishops and priests and politicians into shape, goshdarnit, and then we'll have a Church or a nation worth belonging to!

Jesus stripped himself naked, was beaten up, flogged, and nailed to two pieces of wood. And that's how the world got saved, and the how the Church was born, in the first place. So... the path of renewal and restoration must follow this same path, don't you think? This same Christ is living in us, living for us, and seated at the right hand of God the Father in the heavens. Let us pray in him, with him, and to him, then, as wise St. Augustine counsels, so that we may discern the path of love and brotherhood in our own lives and our life together as the Body of Christ in the world.


  1. Father Denis
    Early in Lent, I was complaining to God- about how the world seemed more disfigured than transfigured. But, then suddenly it all became very clear: that is the whole point. The whole journey .again and again we go to God in our nakedness and again and again he clothes us in his love and his mercy. The point is not to be naked. The point is to be loved by God. But after awhile you recognize the path- suurender to one for the other. Bless you.

    1. That is so very true - I really am filled with hope right now, for so many reasons and for no reason at all, or maybe for the one good reason, which is the love and mercy of God at work in the world. Amen, and (shhh, it's still Lent), alleluia.


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