08 December 2012
First Week in Advent: Saturday
For this weekend, PAYG focus on The Immaculate Conception - as tomorrow is evidently the feast thereof. I don't think I had ever before grasped the proximity of this date to Christmas, and the potential for a very literal view leading to a 17 day pregnancy! It is too easy to 'diss' aspects of Roman Catholic theology and ritual, whilst supplanting it with our own Protestant equivalents (such as the baby who does not wail when woken by noisy cattle written in to the narrative centuries later). For centuries far too much time, ink and angst has been expended on trying to prove/disprove the literal asexual origin of Jesus... theories about Roman soldiers, debates on translations of Hebrew to Greek, and even contemporary scientific stuff that recognises the (vanishingly small possibility but theoretically feasible) angle of human parthenogenesis and, subject to the appropriate conditions such an offspring being in appearance male (as I say near impossible but theoretically could happen).
All of these seem to be adventures in missing the point. In other world religions divnities appear fully adult ex-nihilo; and presumably God could have done the same. In other world religions divinities have blue skin or multiple limbs or are animal rather than human; presumably God could have done the same.
The immaculate conception is, I suggest, less about the 'how' of what God did, but the 'what' and 'why' of what God did. How about this off the top of my head hypothesis:
Immaculate conception = the birthing of the perfect concept (idea, word)
God's brainwave was to slip into the experience of creation as a creature, a human embryo, and to share totally in all that meant. And as a result of that participation in creation, creation would once more participate in the divine, in God. No blue, ten limbed, superhero, just a wailing baby boy tugging at the breast of a peasant mother in a forgotten outpost of the Roman Empire.
Conception as becoming, active, risky, hopeful, vulnerable
Immaculate as perfect, unsullied, ambition-free, open, sacrificial
Immaculate Conception - the perfect realisation of God's good intent for all creation
Trouble is, God, we are dependent on concepts to make sense of the world
We need words and theories and laws and narratives and metaphors...
We need categories and systems and boxes and boundaries
Trouble is, God, we confuse immaculate with squeaky clean, perfect whiteness
We want to impose our ideas of good and evil, greed and generosity
We want to be the good guys and to identify as bad those we name as 'them'
Trouble is, God, we fall prey to the temptation to demystify, demythologize, rationalise
Sanitise, glitter-ise, commercialise, and over complicate that which is
Trouble is, God, your prefect idea is beyond our dumb arrogance to conceive
And the irony of all our cleverness
All our fundamental-liberal-Protestant-Catholic missing the point
You wait to be born in each and every one of us
Born in me
Born in them
Becoming, transforming more and more into your likeness...
Trouble is, God, depsite everything, it's true!
Prepare my life-scarred, world-weary self to receive you afresh
Come Lord Jesus