…born of the Father before all ages…
In theology there is a distinction between low Christology and high Christology. For the average person, you probably don’t realize you even fall into one of these camps. In an oversimplified nutshell, high Christology starts from on high – the idea of Christ, Redeemer, Son of God, “up there”, glorious…think the opening of John’s Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
Now, think of what we hear from Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas:
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
These paint very different pictures of Jesus Christ. John paints a sweeping poetic image of Christ. Luke opens a door on a very earthy, tangible, Jesus connected with the grittiness of humanity…and the stable.
People generally gravitate to one end or the other of this spectrum of thinking about the person of Jesus Christ. Over time, given where you are in life, what you’re wrestling with, what you’re celebrating, where you fall on this spectrum may shift. The great danger is when we isolate one end from the other and declare it the identity of Jesus Christ.
If you know me in real life, you know I have an utter love for Hildegard of Bingen. This saint and Doctor of the Church has become my favorite theologian and saint. How often can you look to a woman a thousand years ago for poetry, medicinal cures, pastoral wisdom, impressive theological chops, and an excellent cookie recipe?
One of the facets of Hildegard’s theology which led to my appreciation is the way she weaves together the earthiness of reality with the ethereal movement and music of the cosmos. She paints pictures with her words in Scivias regarding the Cosmic Christ and his place in the cosmos. Yet she returns throughout all her works to remind us that his flesh is that of a very real, very earthy, very much human woman. She rarely speaks of Jesus’ humanity without referencing that humanity’s origin in Mary. She brings Luke and John together, binding them together throughout her visions and music.
This is entirely intentional. In her Book of Divine Works she writes, “In the fullness of grace, the Word created the cosmos in his divinity and redeemed it through his humanity” (Divine Works, vision 4). Shockingly brief, there is deep truth in this. Jesus Christ’s divinity and humanity are inseparable, but this is an invitation to reflect on the necessity of both in Jesus Christ’s person. The divine created, healed, proclaimed, prophesied. The human taught, grieved, ate, slept, died. The human-divine, dual-natured, Jesus Christ rose.
His humanity was as full of abundance as his divinity, Hildegard goes on to say. We need to know and love the earthy Jesus smelling of the stable, crowds who likely needed a bath. The human who freely grieved the loss of loved ones and rejoiced at table with his friends. We need to know and love the Christ who creates, heals, invites us into co-creation.
We need Jesus Christ in all his many facets. He shows us, as Hildegard says, “we, too, can do wonderful things.”