There is so much confusion in our current place and time when it comes to our selves and what we consist of.
Some tell us that we are purely physical and have no need to consider any spiritual aspect.
Others tell us that the most important piece of us is the spiritual piece and we should disregard the physical altogether.
I confess that I tend to lean toward the latter. Most days I’d prefer to ignore my physical body completely and only tend to my spiritual life. There are probably many of you who lean the other way.
Both of these either/or views, however, don’t accurately depict the way God created humans.
God created man to be unique among all created beings. He created us to be the link between natural life and spiritual life, called to manifest his glory in both.
truly created a little lower than the angels, yet truly crowned with glory and worship, because in this unperfected human nature the Absolute Life itself has deigned to dwell. ~ Evelyn Underhill
We are the only beings created to be both physical and spiritual. We stand in the gap between heaven and earth, bringing God’s kingdom rule here on earth and reflecting the praises of creation back to God.
Rulers and priests.
Physical and spiritual.
It has helped me when thinking through this idea to think of the self as a house. Many theologians over the centuries have written of the self in this way.
St. Teresa of Avila, a Christian mystic in the 16th century, wrote a book called The Interior Castle in which she describes the movement between the lower floors of the castle (the physical self) and the upper floors (the spiritual self) as prayer.
Evelyn Underhill, a theologian from the early 1900’s, wrote of the self as a home with an upstairs (again, the spiritual self) and a downstairs (the physical body).
Both floors of the home are necessary. Taking care of both is essential to being a whole person in the way God intended for us to be.
Therefore a full and wholesome spiritual life can never consist of living upstairs, and forgetting to consider the ground floor and its homely uses and needs; thus ignoring the humbling fact that those upper rooms are entirely supported by it. ~ Underhill
I feel as though those words were written directly to me.
I not only tend to forget the “humbling fact that those upper rooms are entirely supported by” the ground floor, I sin against my Creator when I disparage my physical body as unimportant or less than.
Back to the singularness of human beings, the strength of our “house” consists in that “intimate welding together of the divine and the human.” (Underhill)
That intimate welding together found its perfection in the humanity and deity of Christ.
That intimate welding together is what you and I must aim toward if we are to become like Jesus, become the kind of human we were created to be.
We were created to be a whole house, with the lower and upper floors intimately welded together for the glory of God.
Art credits: painting is by Thomas Kinkade; photo of light through trees is by Kirk Sewell
We in the West live in a world still immersed in the Enlightenment. We still believe that Truth is only what can be observed, tested, measured.
Wendell Berry calls this, the idea that the touchable world of science and matter is all there really is, our modern superstition. ” … we moderns dismiss this (idea that the world tells us about God’s love) as fancy and view the world with disenchanted eyes as a collection of atoms and dust – something to measure but not something that means.”
This, of course, has left us dissatisfied. When the only thing that exists is that which is measurable, when we are told that nothing around us has any deeper meaning, we are left discontent and searching for meaning and contentment in all the wrong places.
And when the unthinkable happens, when our world crumbles and leaves us drowning in grief and pain, we have been trained by our culture and even our churches to look to facts and information to make life easier. If we can only gather enough theological information, we believe, we can solve the problem of grief and pain.
Facts are a cold comfort, though, when we are stumbling through the darkness of suffering. It is good and necessary for us to know facts about the character of God, but we will never know the presence of the Father in data.
Our culture and even many of our churches have trained us to dismiss art, music, joy in nature, as frivolous and trivial.
The truth? These beauties are small glories offered to us as communion with our Creator.
All that exists is God’s gift to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man’s life communion with God. It is divine love made food, made life for man. God blesses everything He creates, and, in biblical language, this means that He makes all creation the sign and means of His presence and wisdom, love and revelation: “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” ~ Alexander Schmemann
Art, music, the beauty of nature, all of these are God’s gift to us, one way that he enters our world of suffering and transforms it into a space where we can know his unfailing love.
Suffering cannot be transformed by theological data. There is not much that will be made new in this life. Yet while we wait for the sure renewal of all things, it is through the “triviality” of beauty, through art and music and joy in nature, that we are able to catch a glimpse of the deeper truth that is Emmanuel, God with us.
All that exists is God’s gift to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man’s life communion with God.
many of the ideas in this post are from This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson
Art credits: Wind Mountain by James Madison Alden; The Water-Lily Pond by Claude Monet; photograph of mountain stream by Kirk Sewell; all other photographs are my own
The day God the Son is dead.
Don’t miss this. Don’t rush through it.
On the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, God-with-us is dead.
Only one part of the Trinity, yes, but God nonetheless.
The Word of God is gone. We can no longer hear Him.
Linger in this day. Does the earth feel different? Somehow vacant?
There is, for this day, no possible way to reach God.
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
No Most Holy Place where the high priest could meet with God.
It is finished.
He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
No Word of God in whom we can see the Father.
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Remain in this day as long as you can. I don’t understand how, but somehow this day exists on which we are completely isolated from God.
Breathe in the horror of this day. God is dead. He is, for this day, unattainable. Can you catch even a glimpse?
The disciples did. They lived it for what must have felt like an eternity.
We’d rather skip past this day, this Saturday that contains Christ’s body in the tomb. Yet we must linger if we are to grasp the power of Easter Sunday. We must dwell here awhile if we are to be allowed to hold the joy of Easter Sunday.
When the Son, the Word of the Father is dead, then no one can see God, hear of Him or attain Him. And this day exists, when the Son is dead, and the Father, accordingly, inaccessible. ~ Hans Urs Von Balthasar (theologian and author)
Can you feel the terror of it? Do you sense the incomprehensible void that stretches before us on this day? What does it even mean?
Do not rush too quickly past this Holy Saturday on your way to the miracle. You may miss the deepest part of the gratitude and joy that are to come.
The deepest gratitude and joy that come only when you understand what was absent, and understand that it was only for a day.
Art credits: Preparation of Christ’s Tomb by Vittore Carpaccio; Tomb of knight Philip Keerman in Flanders, Belgium; 1912 photograph of Jerusalem Garden Tomb by Dwight Lathrop Elmendorf; Side view of Garden Tomb by Deror Avi; Jerusalem Garden Tomb by Berthold Werner