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December 2009

December 30, 2009

Celebrating the Incarnation

simeonthenewtheologian.jpgSo much of my life is up in the air, most of it unresolvable by me. Waiting, hoping, trusting...all the themes of Advent, really.

But now we are in the season of Christmas. I recently came across this extraordinary poem by Saint Symeon the New Theologian. He was born in Turkey in the 10th century. The story goes that at fourteen he begged to be allowed to enter the monastery, but was refused until he turned 27. Then only months after his entrance, he was tossed back out again. His passionate love of God was at odds with the age's more intellectual approach to theology.

This is a poem he wrote called "Awaken As The Beloved." You can sense his love of God and his hunger to experience Christ in all things. I actually hand-wrote this poem and gave it as a gift to someone I love for Christmas. Being a perfectionist and trying to copy it with ink on watercolor paper gave me multiple opportunities to interact with Saint Symeon's words, his passion, and revelation of Christ in him. While this poem is not explicitly a Christmas poem, the incarnation is so enfleshed by Symeon's words that it seems appropriate given that we celebrate the arrival of God in the body of the baby Christ. Good news for all who wait, who hope, who trust...

Awaken As The Beloved

We awaken in Christ’s body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ. He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in His Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
he appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous? – Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
we wake up inside Christ’s body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
as radiant in His light
we awaken as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

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