Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 3)

The older I get, the more I consider Advent, not so much as a time of waiting to celebrate the birth of the historical Jesus, but as a time of preparing for the coming into our lives of that same Christos, or Christ Spirit, that Jesus opened himself up to and embodied so beautifully and powerfully.

Of course, in order to recognize, welcome and embody Christ in our lives and world it helps to look to the example of Jesus. I think that's why I'm so drawn to reading about the historical Jesus and how his way of living and interacting with others was so liberating for those willing to grow and change . . . and so challenging and frightening for those who already thought they had all the answers and so resisted growth and change.

Anyway, I say all of this as a way of introducing Part 3 of The Wild Reed's Advent 2011 series. As you may recall, I'm sharing in this series excerpts from two books I'm currently reading: Fully Human, Fully Divine: An Interactive Christology by Michael Casey and The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – A New Perspective on Christ and His Message by Cynthia Bourgeault. Tonight I share an excerpt from the former. And it's all about the wondrous process of divinization, the ultimate journey of growth and change.


The early Church saw the humanity of Christ a a bridge between us and God – but it was a bridge on which traffic passed in both directions. Christ became human so that we might become divine, that we might see and learn from him the infinitude of love of which the human heart is capable.

Divine nature and human nature have begun to be closely united, so that by its intimate communion with what is more divine, human nature itself strives to become divine. This transformation that occurs is not only in Jesus but also in all of those who, in faith, embrace the life Jesus taught, which leads to friendship and communion with God.

The Incarnation makes no sense without the corresponding doctrine of our divinization. God’s Son descended so that we might ascend, that we might share the divinity of him who humbled himself to share our humanity.

. . . There is a paradox involved in this doctrine: it is only by becoming divine that we begin to be fully human. Conversely, if we are not divinized we become subhuman – beings whose innate potential has been left unrealized. The dual nature of Christ finds its echo in our progressive transformation. “Proclaiming Jesus of Nazareth, true God and perfect human being, the Church opens to all people the prospect of being divinized, and thus of becoming more human” (Gaudium et Spes, 41).

That the divinization of human beings is a neglected doctrine powerfully reveals the impoverishment of Christian faith that we have allowed to occur. It is easy enough to reduce the mystery of God’s plan to a few “metaphysical and ethical crumbs.” Such oversimplification does not succeed in making Christianity more accessible to the ordinary person, but simply render it banal and boring. No wonder exotic religions continue to attract new adherents at the expense of mainstream churches. Religion is not merely a self-serving institution, nor a shaper of events divorced from spiritual reality. Religion is about the transformation of sinful humanity. This miraculous process can be protected and even sustained by ethical constraints and rational discourse, but its essential origin is elsewhere. Faith is a gift from God that catapults itself into human experience with a higher degree of unpredictability. Even where there is human intermediacy, faith seems to be caught rather than taught. It is a living flame that springs from an ardent heart and kindles a fire in another. Packaging, public relations, and salesmanship can never be adequate substitutes for the attractive power of a believer who is personally open to God.

There is always the danger that theological and moral rectitude (orthodoxy and orthopraxy) loom so large on our religious horizon that relationship with God recedes into the background. In this age, more than any other, we need the divine boldness to affirm that Christianity is not a matter of being good but of becoming God. It is only by the wholehearted acceptance of the truth that God’s Son fully shared our humanity that we can be emboldened to find in him our way towards an intense and transforming relationship with the God who exists beyond human experience.

– Michael Casey
Fully Human, Fully Divine
pp. 8-10

NEXT: Part 4

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Why Jesus is My Man
Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 1)
Advent 2011: Thoughts and Reflections (Part 2)
Jesus: Path-blazer of Radical Transformation
The Essential Christ
What We Can Learn from the Story of the Magi
Thoughts on Waiting . . . and a Resolution
Advent: Renewing Our Connection to the Sacred
The Centered Life As An Advent Life
My Advent Prayer for the Church
Advent Thoughts
Letting God Loose
Mystics Full of Grace
Thoughts on Transformation (Part 3)

Image 1: Karen Horton.
Image 2: Design: Pam Hummelsheim. Artwork: Domenico Morelli.

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