Incarnatio continua


The word incarnation captures well the mystery of Advent and Christmas.  Through incarnation, the Divine takes on flesh, and becomes a touchable presence.  Western Christianity has emphasized the uniqueness of Jesus as the incarnate One, an outpouring and overflowing of the love of the Father/Mother/Source of All Being.

Eastern Christianity has highlighted our own participation in incarnation.

Raimon Panikkar was the son of a Spanish Roman Catholic mother and Indian Hindu father.  As a theologian he bridged those worlds.  He writes frequently of an idea I’ve found extremely helpful, especially as someone who embraces religious pluralism.  Panikkar speaks of incarnatio continua, incarnation as a continuous and ongoing process.  The aim of the spiritual life is not merely to accept a set of truths (about the incarnation of Jesus, for example), but to welcome into one’s own being the experience of God that Jesus had.  What we refer to as Christ was both a historical event in Jesus, and a reality available to everyone.  To be caught up in incarnatio continua involves a continual emptying and filling, the pattern of death and resurrection that the Apostle Paul proclaims.  We too participate in ‘sonship’ and ‘daughtership’ of God.

Pannikar writes: “I would like to reassure Christians that they will lose nothing of the profundity of the Christian tradition by renouncing a certain monopoly of Christ” (Christophany p. 51).

What Christians celebrate at Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, is a revelation of the vastness and availability of the Love which generates all of us into being.  We not only gaze on incarnation as a historical artifact, but open ourselves to incarnatio continua, the Divine inhabiting in ever increasing measure our mortal and precious bodies.