Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, December 15, 2010
One of the essential paradoxes of Advent: that while we
wait for God, we are with God all along ,that while we need
to be reassured of God's arrival, or the arrival of our home-
coming, we are already at home. While we wait, we have to
trust, to have faith, but it is God's grace that gives us that faith.
As with all spiritual knowledge, two things are true, and equally
true, at once. The mind can't grasp paradox; it is the know-
ledge of the soul.
Michelle Blake, “The Tentmaker”
Things have been, are now, and will be – and it is all true at the same time. I believe that. We human beings don’t just exist in linear Time, divorced second by second from what has gone before, shut out from the possibilities of the “Future”. The human brain experiences all of it at the same time – the Mysterious Present! The Paradoxical Present. Wonder at what has gone before and expectation of what is Coming form and shape the Present. The skill or art is to learn to live It as One. It sounds weird ….. but we do I think live both “at home” and at the coming “arrival of our homecoming”. In the end, there is no disjuncture, no “great gulfs fixed”.
I think that Blake is correct in what she says, essentially. But I think she is incorrect about one thing: the mind can indeed grasp Paradox. It is, in my opinion, one of the distinguishing elegances of being Human.
“Paradox” comes from the Greek, meaning “contrary to” (para) and “opinion” (doxa – belief). The truth is, two seemingly contradictory things can in fact coexist together as a deeper understanding of Truth. As I think about it, this is what the Council of Nicea was saying (consciously or unconsciously) when it “defined” the doctrine of the Nature of the Christ as “fully Human and fully Divine”. On the surface, it seems absurd to say. But the doctrine of the Incarnation says it! Says that the Divine became Human. And what I find even more important, it also then says that we Humans are also “Divine”.
Advent asks us to poise ourselves to see a grander vision of Who We Are. No, it does not invite us to be grandiose, to “puff ourselves up”. Any intelligent person can just look at oneself or at human history and see what “paradoxes” we are! Such contradiction!
What I value about Advent is that it asks us to see not the lowest common denominator of what it is to be Human, but the “created a little lower than the angels” aspect of being Human!
Advent starts the Christian liturgical year. We will advance through it, challenged by the Liturgy to ponder a plethora of Mysteries, of Paradoxes. But we will start this Journey not as debased beings ….. but as Imagi Dei – manifestations of the Beauty and Wonder that is Life.