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Eckardtesian Thought: I think, therefore I write . . .
Christmas Day 2022
The Word Was Made Flesh
St. John 1:1-14
In the beginning God created all things by the word of His mouth. He said, let there be light, and there was light, and God saw the light, that it was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. God said, let it be so, and it was so. By His word all things were made. And He set them in order in a most magnificent way, assigning the light to heavenly bodies, to light the earth gloriously, and with that light He also brought life into the skies and the seas, and He made living creatures also to dwell on the dry ground which He called earth. And at last, He made man in His own image. In the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And it was all sublime and very good.
To say that He created man in His own image is to say that man was made a most excellent creature. He made him to have dominion over the works of His hands, and this because God Himself had dominion. And He gave him speech, because God Himself spoke. And words proceeded from man’s mouth because the word proceeded from God’s mouth. And man was able to make things because God was the Maker of things. And man was able to think and reason because God from eternity had a counsel and will: eternal thought. And man was able to set things in order because God had set things in order. Man was in every respect like God because God created man in His own image and likeness.
And so man was also a creature of sublime beauty, because God is beautiful, as it is written, One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord. As God created man after His likeness so man, created in the beautiful likeness of God, was also beautiful.
But then man fell, and all was changed, and to that wondrous order there came, alas, disorder. For man in falling turned and twisted away from his Maker, and so his beautiful visage was marred and racked with blemishes and ugliness and the marks of mortality. There were still vestiges of the original beauty, but it was no longer what it once was. The image of God in man barely remained, but it was twisted and broken and now far from being a perfect likeness, as if one had made a blot on a Renaissance masterpiece, or found a hideous watermark on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And the created order itself was tarnished and damaged, and there came to it hills and valleys and rough and crooked places, and darkness and shadows descending and obscuring the light that God had created. Although traces of the original goodness could still be seen, the shadows cast a pall over it, and it was now as it were a ruined work of art.
But God had intended to bind Himself to His work and to crown it with His own infinite stamp, as was already foretold in the creation of man in the image of God. God had determined that He would Himself dwell with His creation as one flesh, as was already mysteriously indicated by the way God had created man and woman to become a one flesh union, as husband and wife. This was already planned and determined from the very creation of the world, which was ordered and right and called very good. It was very good because God is very good. This was the destiny of God’s creation from the start, that He would become one with His creation, in a perfect order.
But now, alas! See what has become of this creation! See what corruption, what folly, what disorder, what misery, what death! Bloodshed everywhere! Infants ripped from their mothers’ wombs, perversion of the highest order, self-mutilations, thieves and murderers, idolators, backbiters, haters of God, disrespectful, proud, boasters, disobedient children. And on and on it goes. See what sin! Not only there, but here, lodged in every heart of man as well, ugly, detestable sin, and inclination to sin, rising up in our own hearts seeking to pull us too away from our Maker. Behold, sin everywhere! Alas! What now? What of God’s original beauty? What of His plan to become one flesh with us, miserable sinners that we have all become? Must it now be thwarted? Would His intention be brought to nothing? Was He to be denied because of what we have become?
May it never be. For with God nothing shall be impossible, as the angel had said. With God nothing shall be impossible, because He is God.
And therefore He still willed to come down from heaven, even it if was to a world that was so fallen and death-ridden. But this ugliness and corruption did not dissuade Him. He would not be put off from His intention, for this intention was not an afterthought, as though necessitated only because man fell into sin and needed to be rescued. It was because He had always wanted to crown His glorious creation with Himself, no matter the cost. And man’s horrific sin, and his turn away from his Creator, and his subsequent mortality, nevertheless did not, could not dissuade God from His original intent. Only now there was added to it the need for man’s rescue. His intention was always to reflect, in human flesh and blood, His own image. And so for the value of that humanity He, like a merchant seeking fine pearls, sold all that He had to purchase that fallen humanity and to make it rise from its mortality. The cost, though it had become immense, was not too high for God.
And so therefore, O man, as you consider the goodness of God toward you and His unspeakable Gift, consider first yourself. Consider your mortality, your defect, your dreadful flaw. Your sin. Your lost beauty and glory, your corrupt nature that has become rotten and worm-eaten. You grow old and decrepit, you die and are buried, you become infested with worms and stench. You now tend toward the grave, justly, and you rot in it.
Consider this first, and only then consider also a marvelous thing: in spite of all this, and notwithstanding the foul odor of your ruined nature, such as it has become, nevertheless! Nevertheless, I say! – the Word was made flesh! Let these words sink into your ears: the Word was made flesh!
— and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. He was not to be dissuaded, and He would not be denied. He came! And He is here, God with us!
This, dearly beloved, is the true beauty and glory of Christmas! God in the flesh! Your flesh! See Him and behold again in Him the beauty of God from the womb of the morning. He has done it! He has accomplished His original intent. For this Holy Child is not in the image of God, as you were; rather, He is the image of God in your midst.
The Word was made flesh! Understand what this means: flesh. This is something the ancient philosophers could not begin to comprehend, for they insisted that God would never come near to sullying Himself with this wretched world. He is too high, too glorious. He would not stoop even to the lowliness of earthly matter at all, to say nothing of the filthiness our flesh. Even the though is too outrageous to think! The infinite God, such as He is, would never! Ah, what fools they are who think such notions to be pious and high-minded! For in saying these things they deny the very possibility of what God has done. He has indeed come down, and has indeed sullied Himself, and covered Himself with the very sewage of our putrid flesh. Yes, flesh! For He willed to save us, and to disinfect and clean and beautify and make right again all that is wrong, and drive away all wickedness and evil and darkness. The light shines in the darkness! And the darkness cannot prevail against it. He wrapped Himself not only in flesh, but in the mortality of flesh. He came directly to the filthy and septic stench of a Bethlehem stable, as a prelude to His life among us with visage was so marred more than any man, and whose form more than the sons of men. He lived here as a man of sorrows, despised and rejected of men; from whom we hid as it were our faces, stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. Ah! The Word was made flesh indeed. To bear our griefs and carry our sorrows, to heal us by His stripes. This is the glory of Christmas! The Word was made flesh, and this rescues flesh! It turns flesh again back toward its Maker, that it might at last be again what it was at first meant to be! He was carried in His mother’s arms, that He might carry us back into our Father’s kingdom. He was soiled with our humanity, that He might purify it and make it again acceptable for paradise, filled again with beauty and the glory of God, as it is written: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness. And in that day, all because of this day, the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. For it is written that he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall again be utterly holy and beautiful and perfect reflections of the image of God.
For He who once mightily ordered all things has come now to restore all things in Himself, to exalt very valley and to make low every mountain and hill, to make the crooked straight, and the rough places plain. He has come as our Dayspring and Splendor of light everlasting to enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death. Yea, to drive away all shadows and engulf all creation in his marvelous light. To make man again a most excellent creature, having perfect dominion over all creation in a beautiful order, speaking and singing freely of the goodness and glory of his Maker, in every respect like God because God had created him in the first place in His own image and likeness, and now, at last, to restore that image and likeness for all eternity. And to be beautiful, with everlasting beauty of God. And all because of this marvelous truth fit to announce to all flesh in all the world: the Word was made flesh.