The Incarnation … Flops.

The Incarnation … Flops. December 13, 2005

A few thoughts — actually, a goodly measure of criticism — on the Presiding Bishop’s 2005 Christmas Message …

from Episcopal News Service

Incarnation

is God’s shocking insistence that flesh and blood like ours

be the medium of God’s Word.

No abstraction,

no lofty vision,

no finely wrought dogma,

no sacred tradition can mollify the shock of this truth:

As one of us

The Word comes to dwell among us

and within us,

as a newborn child,

as Jesus.

May our flesh and blood too be made the route of Christ’s continuing self-gift

to our world

in words and deeds of love and truth,

mercy and indignation,

healing and forgiveness.

Let us dare to welcome the Word.

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church, USA
HT Classical Anglican


Incarnation

is God’s shocking insistence that flesh and blood like ours

be the medium of God’s Word.

The Incarnation was necessitated by the Fall. Having been “clothed with skin” only after the Fall, Adam and Eve were cast out of Paradise. From then on, anyone clothed in skin is sure to die. Thus, it was necessary for God to take on human flesh to free us from eternal death, thereby rescuing us, God save us, back toward Paradise.

Divorcing the Incarnation from the reality of the Fall and Redemption is, one must admit, lacking in the Bishop’s poem. It could be that current Episcopalian theology may also lack the concept.

No abstraction,

no lofty vision,

no finely wrought dogma,

no sacred tradition can mollify the shock of this truth:

What is Bishop Griswold saying here? Without the “sacred tradition” of the Prophets of old, the people of Israel, without Divine revelation, we wouldn’t even be discussing this poem. You cannot separate the Incarnation from God’s preceding revelation, the Law and the Prophets.

I’ll leave the word “abstraction” for someone smarter to parse, but “lofty vision” and “finely wrought dogma” are, I would maintain, part and parcel of the Incarnation itself.

As one of us

The Word comes to dwell among us

and within us,

as a newborn child,

as Jesus.

True, the Word comes to dwell among us and as a newborn child. But, within us? The Word dwells within us? This is the part of the Incarnation? I am Mary hear me roar?

May our flesh and blood too be made the route of Christ’s continuing self-gift

to our world

in words and deeds of love and truth,

mercy and indignation,

healing and forgiveness.

Let us dare to welcome the Word.

I have no idea what this sentence means: May our flesh and blood too be made the route of Christ’s continuing self-gift

This, it appears to me, is pure humanism which denies the Divine nature and the centrality of Incarnational worship, the Eucharist. I realize that Bishop Griswold is encouraging his flock to be Christ to a needy world. But, really, Christ is the gift, if you will, that keeps on giving — not us!

Did he really say mercy and indignation ?

That’s bold for the Primate who has seen thousands of indignant God-fearing believers flee his church in search of lofty vision, finely wrought dogma, and sacred tradition.

The Bishop uses the words shocking and shock in his brief poem. This seems appropriate because, as of late, no church has been more shocking and left believers in such a state of shock as has Bishop Griswold’s.

Mercy!

I mean, what exactly are contented Episcopalians — his audience, I assume — supposed to be indignant about?

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