November 29th, 2014
No, the email hasn’t been stuck in the queue for two days. We’re just sending out a smallish PB today, if only to impart one little thought, here on the cusp of the calendar turning to Advent. (side note: with this season in a somewhat different gear–read: higher–the Backstory during December may be more spontaneous than scheduled (or emailed). So click back every once in a while for new items.)
Tomorrow we begin a month of asking the question, “why does the Incarnation matter?” It’s as fundamental to our grasp of the Gospel as asking, “why the Cross?” While no series on the Incarnation can prove its reality (it is, how shall we say, an irreproducible occurrence), and while we will spend most of our time fleshing out (sorry) the significance of God’s enfleshment, I’d like to propose here at the outset something you might pray for as we consider the question: that you and I might grasp, if nothing else, a bit more of the beauty of the Incarnation.
To set you into that mode of thinking, let me share just couple items that came to us in recent weeks. Tomorrow’s bulletin will have on its front another (and not the last) of Makoto Fujimura’s paintings, this one inspired by the sermon passage: “John-in the beginning.” (above left) It’s from his celebrated collection of painting inspired by the Four Gospels, details of which you can find here. You can watch here a clip of him actually painting this piece while a fellow musician plays percussion alongside (with apologies for the audio syncing). And you can watch a longer explication of the works below
And secondly, we have our own Dr. Dan McCartney to thank for this find: a work by the Nordic Chamber Choir entitled “O Magnum Mysterium,” a piece reveling in the glory of the Incarnation. Hearing it but once sent us scurrying to iTunes to purchase the track, worth far in excess of its almost insulting price of 99 cents. But you can enjoy it for free right here.
On a theme so impenetrable as the Incarnation, doesn’t it sound like the composer brought us a little “higher up and deeper [into]” its mystery?
I end here with a quote from the contemporary French Roman Catholic Pascal Emmanuel-Gobry (who could ignore one with such a florid name?) that I hope would inspire your consistent prayers that God might help us grasp not just the truth or the implications of the Incarnation, but its beauty.
Are we not in need of ceaselessly reminding ourselves that the character of God is one of ontological generosity, unlike us sinful arch-apes who, without grace, only ever do things expecting something else in return? And if so, is not Beauty a great reminder of God’s ontological generosity? Is not the appeal of Beauty precisely that it is its own self-justification, that it serves no other purpose than itself, that it is, in and of itself and by itself, a permanent reminder of God’s permanent generosity, and of the sheer givenness and gratuity of all that exists? And, therefore, are we not then obliged to never regard Beauty as something incidental, as something extra, but on the contrary precisely because of its gratuity as something essential.
If Grace is a beauty, and if in Him we all receive grace upon grace, then would it not be fitting to ask Him for the Grace of seeing His beauty when He came near?
Don’t forget our Blue Christmas Liturgy this Wednesday evening at 7p. See you tomorrow.