This is the week of quiet. That is to say, this week we should have a quiet heart. We are on the threshold of such a miracle that we can repeat the warning: “Take off your shoes, this place is holy.”
Let us quieten our hearts again. This is a great week that we are entering. It is the week of total kenosis, which in Greek means emptying oneself. When Christ came from heaven at Christmas he emptied himself and became a servant. The theme of servant comes to us again. This is the week of our kenosis—what he has done, we should do.
Our hearts become quieter and quieter. And look! Soon there will be a supper, of a kind that has never before been on earth, in which God will give himself to us as food. He who is fed on God is one with God. We are his children and we can do what he can do—with his help. In fact he said, “You will do greater miracles than I.” Our faith should rise like a blazing fire during this week, for we know a little of what it is all about. The events of this week shake us and hold us tight in a sense of expectation.
This is the week of Passover, both the first Passover supper that the Lord God asked for in the Old Testament, and the supper of God giving himself to us as food. This is the week of love, of a kind that makes one’s head and senses reel. To be fed by God is to be strong. So that by doing what is best for the other person, not by doing what I want, I begin to love.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Season of Mercy
Reflection – The word ‘kenosis’ was at one time a commonplace one in Catholic circles, but I’m not sure it is so much anymore. The Greek kenos simply means empty, and Phil 2: 7 speaks of God the Son emptying himself (ekonesen eauton) in his Incarnation, becoming like a slave, a self-emptying that is intensified in his shameful death.
So kenosis is a big word for Christians. As Catherine so simply puts it, what he has done, we should do. What does it mean to empty oneself, though? What does that look like? God fills us, this we know—the Eucharist is all about that, right? God filling us with his life, God giving us everything He is to be our own food and drink. So what is this emptying about?
I think there are many ways this goes on in our daily lives—Catherine is not talking about some weird mystical experience here, not at all. For example, there is choosing to serve when we don’t feel like it. When we’re tired, fed up, out of gas. When we feel like we’re taking a spatula and scraping out the last bits of love from the bottom of our hearts, and it hurts. This is kenosis—to do it anyway.
Or, forgiveness. To not insist on one’s own rights, to bear injuries patiently, to simply let the other person be the way they are, even if this causes us some pain. To lay down our sword and shield and live with vulnerability and defencelessness. This is kenosis, and no small one. This is how Jesus lived, and how he died.
Or, tolerance. Not in the modern sense of being wishy-washy about the moral law or the truth of our faith, but about all the other stuff, yes. To not insist on one’s own way, one’s own ideas, one’s own take on reality. To practice humility and meekness in one’s dealings with others, as opposed to aggression and competitiveness. This can be a great self-emptying.
And to accept with as happy a heart as we can muster the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.’ The little (and maybe not so little) bumps in the road and crosses of daily life. To give thanks to God in all things and to not dedicate all one’s energy to making life completely pain-free for oneself—to just take it and get on with the business of loving. Kenosis, big time.
I’m sure there are more faces and phases of kenosis in our lives, including some that are more in the mystical line of things. But this is where God would have us live, you know. It’s where Jesus lived, and it is the way of life of God in the world that saved the world and raised it up to new life. It is a beautiful way to live—heavy yes, hard certainly, but beautiful.