Write In Between

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Writer's Wednesday -- Ronald Rolheiser

The mystery of the incarnation, simply stated, is the mystery of God taking on human flesh and dealing with human beings in a visible, tangible way. The radical character of this, however, needs some explanation, especially as it pertains to three things: why God would act in this way; the shocking rawness of this kind of act; and its ongoing, rather than one-shot, character.

Why would God want to take on human flesh? Why would an infinite power want to limit itself with the confines of history and a human body? Why incarnation?

There is a marvelous story told about a four-year-old child who awoke one night frightened, convinced that in the darkness around her there were all kinds of spooks and monsters. Alone, she ran to her parents' bedroom. Her mother calmed her down and, taking her by the hand, led her back to her own room, where she put on a light and reassured the child with these words: "You needn't be afraid, you are not alone here. God is in the room with you." The child replied: "I know that God is here, but I need someone in this room who has some skin!"

In essence, that story gives us the reason for the incarnation, as well as an excellent definition of it. God takes on flesh because, like this young girl, we all need someone with us who has some skin. A God who is everywhere is just as easily nowhere. We believe in what we can touch, see, hear, smell, and taste. We are not angels, without bodies, but sensual creatures in the true sense of the word sensuality. We have five senses and we are present in the world only through them. And God, having created our nature, respects how it operates. Thus, God deals with us through our senses. The Jesus who walked the roads of Palestine could be seen, touched, and heard. In the incarnation, God became physical because we are creatures of the senses who, at one point, need a God with some skin.

---Roland Rolheiser, The Holy Longing, Doubleday, 1999.

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