Friday, May 21, 2010

Made Flesh

I once had a conversation with a friend who suggested to me that allegiance to the Catholic Church was an embracing of a glorified picture of the Church at the expense of Scripture. This impression is common enough, and were it true, it would be a grave error indeed.

“Em, Scripture is given to us by God himself,” she affirmed.

I agreed. “And the Church is not?” I cautiously asked.

“Well, the Church may be given to us by God as well,” she agreed, “but it is not part of the Trinity.”

This gave me pause. “...and Scripture is?” I hesitated.

“Yes,” she affirmed, but did not seem sure of her answer, “because Jesus in the Word made flesh...”

This conversation has spun in my mind quite a bit since it happened. It was not the first time I had heard the notion that the introduction to the Gospel of John means that Christ as the Word made flesh is the incarnation of the Bible, as if the Bible is the second person of the Trinity, the form of Jesus that has stayed with us in the past 2000 years since the Ascension.

Please hear me that I am not making fun of my friend. There are some ways the interpretation might have been hasty, an on-the-spot defense of conclusions she had beforehand, but there are other ways that she might have tapped into imagery that John welcomes us to explore. And to whatever extent I sympathize with the idea that the Bible is the second person of the Trinity, perhaps there is a sense in which the Church is the third, the tangible manifestation of the work of the Holy Spirit that has stayed with us for the past 2000 years since Pentecost.

I won’t take that idea very far (anymore than it would be kind to take my friend’s idea farther than it was meant to go), but I am comforted today to remember (as a friend insisted to me two years ago) that God has not abandoned his Church to muddle through the past 2000 years on her own, that the Holy Spirit will not abandon the Church, that God in his surplus of graces has poured his Spirit on us both individually and as a united body.

As I am Confirmed in the morning of the eve of Pentecost, it is good news indeed.

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