Monday, January 15, 2007

Theotokos, Part I : Birthing God in Us

I think I mentioned before that my spiritual director, Fr. Charlie Lachowitzer, had asked me last month to meditate on the concept of Theotokos, the God-Bearer. Doing so, I was immediately drawn to the passage in Paul where he declares to the Galatians (4:19)

"My children, for whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you."

Thinking about the birthing process, I realized that there are many similarities between Mary's role in salvation history and our own growth toward spiritual maturity. I was pushed in this direction also by verses at the beginning of chapter four (4:4-5), which present Mary's role in summary form :

"When the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out 'Abba, Father!"
There is a sense in which our own spiritual growth is like Mary's growth toward the Incarnation. What is brought into being within her is truly of her. Jesus, the Christ, is truly a part of her. Christ partakes of her very flesh, being similar to her both in physical likeness and also in spiritual submission to the Father.
At the same time He who is being born from her is given to her from beyond herself. The life within her is foreign, it is a gift, it is God. In her flesh we find the first hint that humanity truly is capable of bearing the infinite. Her finite womb is capable of bearing the Infinite God.
So it is when Christ is born in us. Our spiritual lives belong to us. They express our unique personalities, desires, and motivations,as varied as are human beings themselves. If you have any doubt of that one need only look at the widely varying charisms in the Church today. From Benedictines to Franciscans, to EWTN to Focolare to Charismatic renewal, there is a fresh pallette of color awash on the walls of old Mother Church.
To each his or her own. Every divine pregnancy is different.
But there is also something, given, something gifted, something in us which comes from beyond ourselves. We are all born from above, giving birth to something quite alien to our natures. The Infinite nature of the Godhead necessitates some kind of other-ness in its relationship to us. The other-ness also comes wrapped in a given-ness. Because it is from beyond ourslves we receive this new life from God as pure gift.
Like a pregnancy, there is an element of labor involved, tremendous effort and inconvenince on our part. We do labor until Christ is formed within. We labor, we sacrifice, we work, we toil. However, that acitivity on our part in no way changes the basic nature of the case. As with the birthing process there is an element of the unexpected, the chaotic, the being-beyond our lown control.
This process of giving birth to Christ within us is both gift and task, it is both disciplined labor and unexpected chaos. And so we also ask the Mother of all Mothers to be with us in this process.
Gentle Mother,
help bring to birth in our lives
He whom you once conceived and bore in Palestine.

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