Don't get stressed (which triggers the inflammatory response), get lots of stage 4 sleep (which is when your brain manufactures the happy chemicals), and consume a lot of ginger, fish oil and other healthy fats, turmeric, green tea, cocoa, alpha lipoic acid, probiotics, and other medicines of immortality. Also walk 10,000 steps a day and do yoga -- or at least avoid sitting for lengthy periods. And definitely cut back on the carbs.
Back to our subject, which is the life of Jesus, starting with the Infancy Narratives. This is not the sort of subject I could ever tackle on my own, so I will be relying upon vertical inspiration to occasionally hijack the bus as we drive along. If that fails to occur, you'll be the second to know, because it will be just you and I without a third: static and not dynamic.
In these matters, two is company while three's a cloud: "The sacred cloud -- the shekinah -- is the visible sign of God's presence" (Benedict). This is the very same cloud that "overshadows" Mary, a subject to which we will return.
But to the extent that we exclude this mysterious Third, you might say there is No Vacancy, which is precisely the first problem faced by the baby Jesus: the world has no space for him. Luke informs us that there was "no room for them in the inn," for which reason Mary is reduced to giving birth in a manger, of all things, which is "a trough or open box in a stable designed to hold feed or fodder for livestock." It seems that his very first experience in this world involved pearls before swine and other beasts.
Benedict relates this to John's description of how "his own people received him not." You could say that the manger incident is just a preview of more unfortunate things to come, and more generally, that the light shines in a kind of invincibly ignorant darkness. Ultimately, the author of the world is strangely unrecognized by his own world: the creation rejects its own creator for something or someone better. But isn't this just Eden all over again?
"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head." Here again this is very odd, and has no resemblance to those Myths of Old to which middlebrow skeptics try to relate it.
For example, Egyptian pharaohs and Roman emperors were said to be offspring of divinities, but as Benedict points out, this was for transparently political reasons. i.e., "giving theological legitimacy to the cult of the ruler." This is born of the same atavistic impulse that once elevated Obama to a "lightbringer" or "evolutionary agent of change." Such pious legends cannot survive contact with reality.
Forgive me if I jump around, spirit blowing where it will and all that. But I keep coming back to the radical idea of the author of creation becoming a character in his own play. In so doing, he is definitely not -- in my opinion -- reading from a script that has already been written. Rather -- and this is the whole point -- he is submitting to his own creation.
Predestineers will of course disagree with me, and that is fine. But I was quite arrested by a passing comment on page 36, to the effect that "God seeks to enter the world anew. He knocks at Mary's door. He needs human freedom" (emphasis mine). Yes, God needs human freedom in order to pull this off. What a strange and radical -- and liberating -- idea! For it is as if the two freedoms must meet in freedom in order to co-create something radically unprecedented.
"The only way he can redeem man, who was created free, is by means of a free 'yes' to his will." And here is the sentence that really caught my eye; although some will disagree, it follows logically: "In creating freedom, he made himself in a certain sense dependent upon man. His power is tied to the unenforceable 'yes' of a human being."
Will Mary give her consent? Is there or is there not a vacant womb? Either this is a kind of "risk" on God's part (it certainly is from our perspective), or Mary's decision and later role lose all merit. God is taking a big gamble (I guess he plays dice after all) -- like a guy who asks his girlfriend to marry him in front of 50,000 people at Yankee Stadium. Sure, they always say yes, but still, you never know until you ask.
But Mary responds, Let it be to me according to your word, which represents "the moment of free, humble yet magnanimous obedience in which the loftiest choice of human freedom is made." It assures that the narrative to come is truly woven of human and divine freedom. "It makes," writes Balthasar, "the foreign land into a home in both directions: heaven on earth and, therefore, earth in heaven." In its absence, one could say that the world remains a foreign land with no proper space for us: life consists of alienation inside a cramped prison.
This reflects "the secret of the supernatural fruitfulness of the soul: that it is aroused entirely by the seed of God, and yet cannot do without the assent of the natural powers of the mind." This "willing cooperation" is "the sine qua non of its growth" (Balthasar) -- meaning that it is a necessary but not sufficient condition, the latter belonging to the God in whom all things are said to be possible.
Sounding very much like Eckhart, Balthasar goes on to say that "Whoever takes God's word into his soul becomes its mother and can, through grace, help bring it forth. But he can do this only because he is at the same time drawn into the eternal birth of the Son in the Father, in which, through grace, he becomes the brother or sister of the Word."
Thus, we are all coauthoring our own infancy narrative. Assuming we have a vacancy.
This mystery of the Incarnation has two aspects: the Word, on the one hand, and its human receptacle, on the other: Christ and Virgin Mother. To be able to realize in itself this mystery, the soul must be like the Virgin... --Schuon