Sunday, April 12, 2015

Being one with God in his humanity

I read this passage from Hadewijch of Brabant when doing some readings for my church history course. It is spot-on:

But today, instead of loving God's will, everyone loves himself: it is everyone's will to have peace and rest, to live with God in riches and might, and to be one with Him in His joy and glory. We all want to be God along with God; but God knows that there are few of us who want to be man with Him in His humanity, to carry His Cross with Him, to hang upon it with Him, to pay with Him the debt of human kind. If we look at ourselves we can see that this is true: we will not suffer anything, we will not endure. Just let our hearts be stabbed by the slightest grief, just let someone say a scornful or slanderous word about us, let anyone act against our reputation or our peace or our will, and at once we are mortally injured: we know exactly what we want and what we do not want, there are so many things which give us pleasure or pain, now we want this and now we want that, our joy today is our sorrow tomorrow, we would like to be here, we would like to be there, we do not want something and then we want it, and in everything all we are thinking of is our own satisfaction and how we can best seek it.

This is why we are still unenlightened in our thinking, unstable in all our being, uncertain in our reasoning and understanding. This is why we suffer so, poor and wretched exiled beggars, painfully travelling through a foreign land, and there would be no need for this, were it not that all our thinking is false; and how false it is we plainly show when we do not live with Christ as He lived, do not abandon all as He did, are not abandoned by all as He was (from In Her Words: Women's Writings in the History of Christian Thought, pp. 118-9).

This is exactly right. I know from personal experience that this concern for self, an unwillingness to be insulted and to swallow one's pride, an unwillingness not to please ourselves in our dealings with others (cf. Rom 15.3) is a cause of much interminable conflict and problems. This is certainly a cause of many problems I see in my own church, for instance.

Christ shows us what a human person ought to live like: in sacrifice. Christ did not please himself (Rom 15.3) -- that is what Paul teaches, and that is the essence of the Christian message, to my mind. Shusaku Endo captured this perfectly at the end of his masterpiece novel Silence, when Christ speaks to Rodriguez from the wooden icon: Trample! It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men's pain that I carried my cross (p. 171).

If we pretend to be Christians, we ought to learn from Christ what it is like to be a true human person in the world. We cannot be one with God in his divinity, free from all pain and suffering, immutably glorious and to be honored. We are humans, and we have to be one with God in his humanity. This means bearing the cross and suffering out of love, just as Christ did.