The wound inflicted on world history by the coming of Christ continues to fester. ~Hans Urs von Balthasar
The Word spoke. The Word speaks. The Word became flesh at a fixed point in time and space, yet, the resonance, redemptive power, liberating work continues to act outside time and space. The Word is not spoken in ideas and philosophies to be argued and used in support of one’s position, a campaign of violence against another’s view. The Word performed the message, is performing redemption. And, the gift of the grace and mercy of redemption can only be received by its enactment, “by serving as the mythos of an actual communal embodiment of the gospel.”
Lived community is social, and, it follows, political. That is, to survive in the context of the group, an understanding of contributions to the well-being of the whole, the balance of power, must be established. The Church is such a community, as is the Trinity by self-disclosure, by Being. Apart from God, power is abused, the gift of grace eschewed. It is what Julian sees in her vision of the lord and servant, a “radical overturning of the social order, dehierarchicalization of the body politic.”(176 ) The lord identifies as the servant, and the servant is revealed in the Son’s equality with the Father. In the context of Medieval society, the implication is it “leads the lord not simply to act according to the medieval ideal of the lordship, but in fact to transgress the boundaries of that ideal by raising the servant above his proper station.” (177)
For Julian, “the realm of history is the realm of the ‘hazelnut’; it is composed of the ‘little things’ that are held in existence by God’s love, and that can only be properly known and loved in relation to God. This is no less true of the church as a historical entity; it too must be seen ‘spiritually,’ i.e., in relationship to God. . . . The soul, rather than being an enclosed space, insulated from history, is radically ‘exteriorized’ by the indwelling of God.” (181) And, to do so is to act out the Trinitarian being—a perfect movement of giver and receiver of gift. The hierarchy is dynamic, not static, “oriented toward the exchange of goods between its poles.” (183) The Father gives to the Son who is enabled to give himself back in Spirit. Not a “pure gift,” but “purified gift exchange” imprinted on all of creation, such that dynamics of power are seen “not as an opportunity for domination, but for self-donation.” (187)
Lived authentic communal embodiment of the gospel occurs when the Body is “purified according to the model of Trinitarian reciprocity, rendering not the static egalitarianism of modern liberalism, but the drama of the servant’s exaltation. What Julian gives us in vignette is something that is neither feudal ‘stability’ nor modern ‘liberty’ but a Trinitarian ‘charity.’” (189) There is nothing in the Trinity that contains domination or control of one Person over Another, power imbalance, oppression. The Trinitarian act and Being is charity, is love. It is giving to receive only to give back . . . again, and again.
Isaiah, in the very first chapter, exhorts the people to cease to do evil and strive to do good. What does it mean for me to cease doing evil? How does one go about striving to do good? It seems it has something to do with power and oppression—i.e., giving up power so that one without it might be empowered. It is a personal act, willingness to relinquish control, but it is certainly social—and each person has some recourse to effect change at the level of society just by being alive. Perhaps, today’s Lenten prayer can be that: the Trinity open my eyes to specific ways I can give of myself so another might repossess the dignity the world has commandeered. The images in the following video meditation are pieces of art from a variety of cultures and eras that view the cross from unique perspectives. Gaze long on these images and see what Jesus intends for you to see. Thank you, for joining me in this prayer!