Considering His action

The way I’m thinking these days, I have for now dubbed Protestantism (including Roman Catholicism) the religious “behavioral spectrum”. At one end of the spectrum is this idea: As long as you behave like us, we don’t care what you think. At the other end is this: As long as you think like us, we don’t care how you behave. In both instances, there is a separation I’m seeing between individuals that is artificial when compared with reality as Christ modeled reality. At both ends of the spectrum pride can receive free reign.

This is a concern, because throughout the Bible we find this exhortation: turn away from pride and embrace humility. It was a project necessary from the beginning of our humanity, I expect. At least it became the necessary thing for Adam and Eve to do, once they had chosen pride before God in the aftermath of their transgression.

I need to work every moment on this project; it is the reason, I think, that I find myself in the Church. I’m grateful and happy to do this, to work out this project’s details for the rest of my days.

The reason there is joy in the prospect of working on the project is that in every way Christ modeled for us the path of humility. He who did not rebel once, he who, as the Church teaches, became an infant while remaining “very God” did not harm his human mother in any way while being born.

All other human babies make a violent entrance into the stream of humanity. This can’t be helped. I didn’t know, growing in my mom’s uterus, that I was making the situation impossible for her to keep me there, to avoid suffering. All I must have understood during the birth process was my own confusion, suffocation, amazement at bursting out into space and white lights in my eyes, with blood and tissue the river around my naked self.

The Church teaches that Jesus, coming as a baby and being truly human, at the same time was able to keep Mary his mother from losing her virginity. I hadn’t considered just how it might feel to give birth as a virgin. The thing was hard enough for me who'd had years of womanly experience. I can only imagine the suffering of one who “never having known a man” must now be stretched, in a sense mutilated, in order to provide passage to her baby. This historical moment of Jesus’s birth was certainly before Caesarian sections were widely practiced. Maybe if Mary had been in Rome, and royal, someone could have experimented on her; even then the results might well have been disaster.

But we are presented, Protestant as well as Orthodox Christians, with a miracle. The promised Messiah enters the womb of the Virgin by means of the Holy Spirit. No male involved; no sexual union. And in the Church’s tradition the understanding remains that after Messiah’s birth those closest to the event found evidence that Mary remained a virgin, unharmed.

For me, this realization dawning brings the greatest glimpse of humility I have received. God breaking into human reality without doing any violence. Taking whatever pains needed to accomplish this. The Father, having always planned to send the Son, never made the requirements for our reception harmful or painful in the manner of our way of bloodshed. This must have almost made it hurt worse (spiritually speaking): to have him arrive so very humbly.

Compare his birth, then, with the manner of death he took on for our sakes. It happened in the same fashion: when the time came, God’s only begotten (unique) Son died, so that whoever believes in him might live. The violence of his death wasn’t directed by God toward men; it went the other way around. Jesus took it on. He suffered all the pain in his completion of a startling change to our reality, sparing us as he had done when he entered into our reality.

This act by Christ wasn’t a behavior; it was so much more than a performance. It was an action most organic, most real.