Because of the things I’ve read, I take for granted now that there are two levels of reality.
There’s the world we’re used to, and there’s a deeper reality that is comprised of a different kind of being described universally as divine.
The mystics in every religion claim to have formed a relationship with this divine reality that somehow puts right the deficiencies and apparent failings of the world.
In other words, though this divine reality is hidden from view, in truth it overshadows the world.
Christmas celebrates the time when this divine reality entered into the world, and theologians have grappled for an appropriate depiction of how this transcendent, perfect, being can possibly have participated in a mundane, imperfect reality.
The incarnation itself tells us something about the nature of God. In case we struggled to work it out, that message was reiterated in the story of his birth – the lowliness of his condition, the humility of his circumstances.
In case we missed it, this message was repeated again in the works he performed, the people he travelled with and taught, or treated as friends.
If the message still didn’t get through, he said it himself as clearly as possible: the first shall be last and the last shall be first; he who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.
In his betrayal and death, both the fact that he did die and the humiliating manner of his execution, the message was repeated, corresponding to the words of the prophet before him.
The whole journey from beginning to end expands like a fractal, repeating itself on every scale to reveal the nature of the divine being.
It’s a theme, a motif picked up and presaged by prophets, sages, wise men and holy men and women of all nations: that the truth is not found in the empty greatness and glory that the world offers, that the path to God is opposed to our own self-aggrandisement, whether it be in the outright arrogance of wanting to look down on others, or the more subtle craving for autonomy, self-control, the illusion of our own dominion.
Gloria in Profundis
by G.K. CHESTERTON
There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is spilt on the sand.
Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all-
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?
For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.
Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.