December 23: O Emmanuel (God With Us)

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Courtesy of the Naked Pastor

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

The word Emmanuel, like the second Antiphon Adonai is not of Latin origin, but Hebrew. Emmanu-el…..literally “God with us” points to the central mystery of Christmas….the Incarnation

What I like about the illustration above is the fact that the cartoonist has an arrow pointing towards manure. The mystery of how and why God comes to us in the Flesh–to me–is found in the symbolism of that dung pile.

Our God is a messy God. Who literally arrives knee-deep in shit and mud, and a smelly stable….all so that he can be with us…..to be with his Beloved.

The crap that he encounters in life does not go away. Like all of us, he gets tired, he gets hungry, he feels pain, and yes….even tastes the isolation and pain of death.

The arrival of the baby in Bethlehem is not something that is serene and calm…..Instead, it is loud, in your face, real world encounter.

As we prepare for the celebration of Christmas tomorrow….may we be reminded that our faith requires us to get dirty…..to encounter people where they are…..and that we take to heart the implications of a God who is not far off….but close at hand…..close enough to touch.

Lord Jesus, come soon! Come and be born in our hearts! +

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Morning Prayer: June 6th

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Psalm: 89:1-18
Old Testament: Ezekiel 4:1-17
New Testament: Hebrews 6:1-12

Author’s note: Originally, I had totally misheard the Old Testament reading at the Cathedral and thought Ezekiel ate/cooked with the human dung and built my reflection around that idea. The post stayed that way for the majority of the day. I have since changed it…..but to those whom I inadvertenly led astray…mea culpa! mea culpa! Will definitely make a more concerted editing effort in future posts. 🙂

‘See, I will let you have cow’s dung instead of human dung, on which you may prepare your bread.’ (Ezekiel 4:15)

But if [your faith] produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over. (Hebrews 6:8)

Eeeew! We have some pretty dark images going on in today’s readings, non? :S Despite my own discomfort though, I think there is still something to be gleaned here.

I am particularly struck by Ezekiel’s command from God to literally eat shit. :P. It is shocking enough to our own sensibilities, but for a prophet, the thought of doing such a thing would be unbearable.

According to the Torah, if a Jewish person came into contact with biological waste (corpses, menstrual blood, feces, urine &c.) there was an automatic exclusion from the whole congregation. Normally, there would be a priestly ritual (lasting anywhere from 7-14 days) that would remove the contamination and allow the person to re-enter the people of God.

Of course, with Ezekiel writing during the Babylonian Exile…the Temple is gone and the Levitical priests have been banned from practicing their faith. To eat animal dung would be to enter a state of defilement that was impossible to recover from ritually.

For all his protesting, Ezekiel is told he must eat the feces in order to convey God’s message to the people. Like so many prophets who have come before him, this faithful Jew is called to say and do things that seem impossible.

There is also an interesting twist to the story.

In his mercy, YHWH has allowed Ezekiel to eat cow’s dung–rather than human dung…..for to eat a waste product of God’s most precious creation is too great an embarassment. Even in the midst of humiiation, there is mercy. 🙂

On a metaphorical level, there is also something comforting to know that even when we must eat shit…..God is with us…loving us…..upholding us…..even to the end of the age. +

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