Divinisation and Incarnation

John Navone SJ FAITH Magazine September-October 2007

The story of Jesus is what the eternal trinitarian life of God  looks like when it is projected upon the screen of history,  and this means not only on the screen of human history but  of sinful human history. The obedience of Jesus to the Father,  his obedience to his mission, is just what the eternal  procession of the Son from the Father appears as in history.  His obedience consists in nothing else but his being in history.  Jesus did nothing but be the Son as man. His crucifixion was  the dramatic manifestation of the sort of world we have made,  the showing up of the world, the unmasking of what we  traditionally call original sin. There is no need for theories about  the Father putting his Son to death once we know that he was human in our world. Jesus died in obedience to his  Father's will simply in the sense that he was human in his  obedience to his Father's will.

Just as the crucifixion/resurrection is what the eternal  procession of the Son from the Father looks like when  projected upon sinful human history, so the sending of the  Holy Spirit (so that we share in the life of God, so that the  mystery of the church exists) is what the eternal procession  of the Holy Spirit looks like when projected on to that sinful  human world. And the Holy Spirit appears in our world as  the transforming force making the world new, or the church  new, the individual new, by reducing all the obstacles to its  new creation.

The Holy Spirit of the Father and Son is our given capacity for  God in our divinization. It is a given equality/communion with  God. To lose sight of that would be to make ourselves God, to  divinize ourselves. It is the mystery we encounter when we try  to speak of the relationship of Jesus and the Father. There is  an equality between them, yet evidently there can be no such  thing as two individual Gods. Jesus is indeed from the Father,  owes his being to the Father, but is nonetheless not a creature  but wholly equal with the Father. The traditional word for this  is “procession”: Jesus proceeds from the Father but not by  being created.

What we mean by the Incarnation is that the divine Son took  on humanity; what we mean by our grace is that we human  beings are given divinity. And it is in living the divine-life-weare- given that we have what we call faith in the fundamental  truth that the Father loves Jesus. That God is creator and loves  Jesus as equal is revealed to us in the story of Israel and the  church, centering and pivoting on Jesus of Nazareth.  The revelation is not given to us as a piece of information  about God; it is communicated to us in the act of taking us  up into his love. In other words, that the Father loves Jesus is  revealed to us precisely in our being brought to share in that  love between them: and this is the Incarnation. Jesus in fact actually reveals the Father’s love for him not in talking about  it but in embracing us within it – he does talk about it too,  but you could listen to the talk without receiving the revelation  for that lies in responding faith to the offer of love.

What is offered in the church and scriptures is a share in his  life. What is unique about Jesus is the encounter with God  that he represented. If we are to enter into the mystery of  God we need to be taken up by God himself, to share in his  knowledge of himself, a share that makes us acutely aware  of our inadequacy before the mystery as we are brought  closer to it.

So it is God’s initiative that is needed. Not that we should  speak more about him, but that he should speak to us. No  one, however sinless, could know God except God. No one  knows the Father except the Son, no one knows the Son  except the Father. Unless we are taken up to share in God’s  self-knowledge there is just no way a creature can answer  his/her own radical question about God. It is not sin that  gets in the way; it is the fact that we are creatures. The gap  between ourselves and God is not simply a moral one,  that he is good and we are not. It is the metaphysical one:  God is creator and we are his creatures.

Of course, our being sinners does not help. It means that  we do not of ourselves share in knowledge of God (true of  creatures anyway) but that when it is offered to us we reject  it. There is for us no such state as absence of divinity:  we are either divinized or we have rejected divinity.

For this is what is involved in the gift of Jesus. God loves  Jesus and loves him from eternity as his co-equal Son, owing  his existence indeed to God though not created. It is into this  eternal exchange of love between Jesus and the Father that  we are taken up, this exchange of love that is called the Holy  Spirit. And this means, of course, that we are taken up into  equality/communion. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit of  love poured into ours hearts (Rom 5:5) we are given equality,  the divine life love itself, the Holy Spirit.   

Faith Magazine

September - October 2007