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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

In the Beginning, the Word

The Gospel of John begins with a battle cry. Its declaration challenges nihilistic powers and impulses at work in our society and in our hearts. It raises a meaningful standard around which human existence rallies. What is this standard, this challenge, this battle cry? At the very origin of all that is and of each one's own life resounds the Word of the Father - and the beauty that He unveils is the very hope we need in life.

Sovereign, generative and beautiful, the infinite fullness of this Eternal Word is manifest in the very multitude of created beings, bringing harmony where ever freely welcomed and even before being welcomed, already ordering everything so that the miracle of each free personal encounter might happen. And so the miracle of Christmas where God entered the world of humanity without absorbing or diminishing the meaning of man but instead unveiling its fuller truth, the truth about the human heart that the Father has pondered from before the foundation of the world. This miracle has happened because of who God is. At once One in Three and Three in One, the Word made flesh reveals the mutually peaceful self-disclosure and jubilant recognition of truth and love that He shares with the Father from all Eternity. Such communion does not diminish, absorb or surmount but beholds, shares and delights in the Other. Out of His goodness and wisdom, God has freely chosen to raise humanity into this very communion of magnificent mutuality by a sheer gift of grace. And so the Word became flesh. Embodied in our poverty, the Word does not overwhelm or absorb, but dwells with us. How can the Infinite dwell with what is finite? He arranges everything so that what has been summoned into existence might more fully become what it was meant to be. In this present world as is true in the world that is yet to come, this is true first and foremost of His own Mother by whom He became flesh and made His dwelling among us. In being born in a particular moment of history through a particular woman of a particular people of all particular place, the Eternal Word sanctifies all space and time, transforming all of it into a place of encounter for every heart, of every time and place. In not overcoming particularity of human existence or surmounting the frail limits of manhood, his birth changed our very weakness and poverty into the dwelling place of the Almighty. So it is with us in the particularity of our lives. We fear that welcoming the Word will make us uncomfortable and inconvenience our lives -- and so it does, but for great purpose and the healing of our humanity. We are accustom to our sinfulness and familiar with the cycles of life and we suspect that He offers something that will shattered the prison we have built for ourselves.We would rather an impersonal absolute, abstract and far away from the concrete grit of our daily existence. Even if our dreams seem subject to futility, we resist the One who has come to free us from what is futile. Our fears betray us even as we are trapped in self-contradictions. There He is, as vulnerable as a newborn babe, waiting for us to lift Him into our arms. If the Light who was from the beginning is to evoke hope beyond a vague sense of nostalgia, if He is to illumine more than a what the limits of hubris can know, if He is to help us find ground firm enough to support the weight of human existence, He could never render meaningless the noble desires of our hearts - for what is good and true is what He has come to save. When He manifests the tender love of the Father, He does not wish to overthrow our freedom or to diminish our personal excellence. The obedience that welcomes the compassion that He manifests discovers a hidden capacity to believe in love though love seems so absent, to make a new beginning even as all things seem to be coming to an end, to set out with fresh hope in the very face of disaster, to fight with renewed purpose though the battle seem impossible to win, to endure all that passes with assured confidence in what will not pass away, to stand for what is right no matter the cost because the price has already been paid, to begin something beautiful for God because the Word has already begun something beautiful in all that He has begun for us.

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