No, not that kind of epiphany

I’ve been remiss about updating this blog. For a while I could blame it on not feeling well, but now it’s just laziness. So in an attempt to break the cycle of sloth, have at you!

So Christmas is finally wrapped up with the Feast of the Epiphany – that is, the celebration of the revelation of God the Son incarnate as Christ. Now much ink has been spilled over this, so instead I’ll just meander with this thought: in lots of fiction that deals in strange and wondrous things, there’s often a move made (I’m not sure if there’s a particular name for it) to have the various turns of plot to be increasingly incredible and then have the climax suddenly take things more down to earth, or get a shock at the appearance of a familiar face. One reason for doing this is simply that the audience’s expectations for a ‘wow’ finish are so high that any attempt to actually meet it is bound to be a disappointment, another is to boil the plot back down to the essentials for a cleaner finish. But if done well, the effect of it is to make the normal wonderful and unnerving. It’s often more of a shock than a more conventional climax because up until that point there’s been a cleavage between the normal and the strange, and with this the strange has invaded the normal.

And that’s somewhat how I feel about the Incarnation. The radical separation between God and creature is so unfathomably wide that it is a shock to the system that when He meets us face-to-face, we find a human face staring back at us. Not an apparition taken on so that our minds don’t implode, or that we feel more comfortable when we see Him, but a nature that includes real flesh and blood. The likeness serves to underline the unlikeness, because it explodes our settled categories; the Trinity has the paradox of simultaneously making God both more accessible and more inscrutable.

The complaint that the Judeo-Christian understanding of God is too predictable and anthropomorphic to be true is itself a victim of the attitude it decries. It implies that we do know what to expect when we see the creator of the universe face-to-face. But fortunately we live in a more interesting universe than that.

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About Josh W

A Catholic; an occasional writer.
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