by Alexander Earl
When Christ’s side was pierced with the spear, water and blood flowed from his side. In that moment the Church was born; no, that moment was the perfect image of eternity, when the One, pure overflow, generated Intellect: the fullness of meaning. For the Church, the body of Christ, receives all that is God’s through an outpouring of grace. She is perfect intelligibility, contemplating that which transcends all thought. It is no wonder that the Pure Virgin is at the Lord’s side when this mystery occurs. For she is, in her person, His Body. She alone says, “let it be unto me according to thy word.” By “according to thy word,” she doubtless means the Father’s Word, which when spoken entered into the inexpressible economy of salvation. She is His Body as His Temple, for from her He adopts the Flesh he deifies on the cross, and so raises the cosmos to intelligibility. She is present at the cross because her flesh, as with us all, finds deification there. At the cross she becomes Queen of Heaven, in noetic contemplation of the dark cloud upon the mountain she is created wisdom beholding Wisdom.
Is it surprising that the whole cosmos trembles at this mystery? Golgotha is the sound of creation: of non-existence coming into Being. For the Lord proclaims “it is finished” and gives up the Spirit to his beloved disciple. The Theotokos is the Body, taken from Adam’s side, and so it is the Theologian that must be grafted onto it, that is, born from it, thereby following the Master; as the Master says to him, “this is your mother,” and he says to her, “this is your son.” And so God rested on the seventh day, beholding his works. If we want to rest on the Lord’s Breast, we must find comfort in the same breast as he. What a revelation! Our first birth was stillborn. We must be immersed in a new liquor amnii to find birth. We must drink from the milk of the Word before we are ready for solidity. We must be nourished on His Flesh if we hope to become flesh. What does it mean to enter the wedding banquet disrobed and so cast out? It is to be found naked and ashamed. God calls out to us, “where are you”? He is embodied, we are not yet embodied; let us become embodied, so that we may dwell with the Embodied.
Some find this teaching hard and turn away. Some try to enter it in their own way, not understanding the Way. All of the saints and sages of old sought the Logos. They, being rational (logikoi), out of necessity desired the Principle of their being. They mistakenly sought for it elsewhere, in the beginning, looking behind instead of ahead, or above, we should say. Many seek the Logos there, but he is nowhere, for he has ascended. But ascended to where? Listen closely, nowhere! The cross is not confined to a place, but is the place of the skull. Only the numskull fails to enter it. Turn within, to your kranion, and behold the crucified One. Here is your Genesis. It is not that we must dispense with the mind. God forbid! We must become intelligible, and to do so requires an emptying down to the skull, to become skulls and bones. Don’t you understand that we must die? Yet what is death that we should enter it? It is not a thing, or a place, or a state. It is emptiness. This is the great paradox of the faith: the Full became Empty, or rather was always the Fullness as Emptying. Our God is Love.
See now how the Greeks do not understand, and how the Jews stumble around it (I speak spiritually). For the Greeks love the immaterial and the Jews think they know flesh, and so both fail to see this immaterial flesh. The darkness of the world does not comprehend it. Between them there is no distinction. The Jew separates and the Greek separates. All is put at a distance and measured as other. Really now, shall you call your Lord “Other”? Behold his broken body and his spilt blood! See how the ground itself calls out for it; it received Abel, but was not satiated. Creation from the beginning desired that God-man. It opens its mouth to drink his blood and groans in travail for its redemption. Do not think it is there, away from you, that you are safe from it. No, the Lord drags all things to himself. His shattered arms stretch East to West, his limp body North to South. He is an all-consuming fire, and all shall be cast into it and yet not consumed. Every knee shall bend, either above the cross, by the cross, or under the cross. This is the mystery of faith.
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Alexander Earl currently teaches Theology and Philosophy at a college-preparatory school in Santa Monica, California. He holds a Masters of Arts in Religion and Philosophical Theology from Yale Divinity School.