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40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 36 – The Incarnation

April 15, 2009

Reason # 36 Catholicism upholds the “incarnational principle,” wherein Jesus became flesh and thus raised flesh and matter to new spiritual heights.

One of the beauties of the Catholic Faith is the way that all creation is summoned to praise God. In the sacraments we use water, bread, wine, and oil. In the Liturgy we use candles and incense. Our bodies are very involved in worship as we stand, sit, kneel, even prostrate at times. Our Churches (at least the traditional ones) make use of beautiful stained glass, wood, marble and stone. Music is rich and varied from the haunting Chant, to joyful polyphony, from the mighty pipe organ to the unaccompanied voice. For us as Catholics we expect to encounter our faith in what is, in the world around us. The liturgy is no mere lecture or just intellectual ideas and values. It is creation in action, the Word become flesh. When Jesus took on flesh God joined with his creation and elevated it. Jesus made frequent use of creation and often spoke of it in his parables.

Obviously some of the things I have mentioned above have diminished in Catholicism in recent decades as many of our older church buildings were stripped and many of our newer buildings are minimalist in their design.  But traditional architecture is making a comeback and some of our older buildings are being tastefully restored.

Why is this a reason to come home? Because faith is not merely an abstraction that exists only in our minds or a televised message. Faith is found in our church buildings, in the people who gather there, in the sacraments and liturgies that are celebrated there. Place and time are important dimensions to faith. Here there is an intersection between the good, the true and the beautiful. It is like the old family home. Our memories are not just stored in our brains but on the worn back stairways of the house, in the pictures on the wall,  little trinkets that have been collected over the years, in the magnets on the refrigerator door, and at the kitchen table. Our churches are like this, the old familiar statues, the altar, the meeting rooms, the smell of candles and incense in the air, the rituals and sacraments that call us home.  Come home. Faith is not merely an idea, it is an old familiar place, it is sacraments and rituals that literally touch you, it is about an incarnation, something tangible, and touchable, something familiar. The Catholic Church does all this well. We may have forgotten some of it for a time, but we never fully lost it. Catholicism upholds the “incarnational principle,” wherein Jesus became flesh and thus raised flesh and matter to new spiritual heights. So come home and reconnect with Jesus, the Word made flesh.

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  1. Janèt Sullivan Whitaker says:

    I am presently teaching at a liturgical conference held each year at the St Meinrad school of Theology in Indiana. This morning, I am getting ready to prepare my group for liturgies for the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is tomorrow. I have been meditating on incarnational imagery, and am now looking for various ways to express this concept to the teens in my catechetical group. Then I happened upon this fascinating little article and video trailer. Someone did a great job with the visual, musical and theological content here. Very exciting! Great technical production, too!

    As a composer of liturgical music, teacher and co-worker in the vineyard of our church’s laity, I am constantly encountering ways in which the secular world “tells our story” – and we have allowed it to happen.
    I have wanted to help by using my own prophetic/creative voice in ways that allow Catholics to see and understand themselves in newer, deeper ways. I am convinced that the liturgy is the best place for this work to be generated. I am eager to know more about this project, where it is going – and how I might be of help. Our own ecclesiology contains a vast, untapped wealth of potential for proclaiming to the world just who (and whose) we are.

    I do have a question: Who is the priest speaking in this video trailer? Is this Msgr. Charles Pope?
    I would like to communicate with him, and make his acquaintance.

    Janèt Sullivan Whitaker
    publisher: http://www.ocp.org