Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Cross and the Womb of God

After an infant is born, passed through its mother's body, into my medicalized hands, gowned and gloved, after the cord is clamped and cut, cord bloods delivered in tubes, after the infant is into the living air and loving mother's arms and at the breast, one side of the chiasm of mother and child remains to emerge. The careful delivery of the placenta punctuates the birth of a new person into finitude.
Medicalized, gowned and gloves, I pass my hand into the womb and meet the fetal machine of life; I find a plane where womb and placenta meet, and slide, ever so gently, my body into the space where mother and child were separate only by molecules. My hand and my mind's eye traverse this space until the connection dissolves, as I lift the placenta off the maternal side, delivering into the air.

There is a violence in this separating of mother from the remnant of mutual gestation. For all its gentleness, my hand puts asunder what nature would have gotten round to, the dividing of the fabric of mother and child. In fact, the manual delivery of the placenta is quite passe. I no longer invade the womb; instead, I wait. I place my hand on the abdomen, and massage the womb, encouraging gentle contraction, and the womb releases the placenta. With gentle traction on the cord, the placenta delivers itself. Both mother and child are now completely in the world. I discover I am little more than a witness to a double individuation.

We must not miss the placental turn of the Cross. The Logos, united to the human flesh, witnesses at the level of personhood the suffering in that flesh, and in its chiasmic proximity, feels all that the flesh bears. In its placental relationship, the Logos give life but also separation: it is accomplished, completed--- the finitude of the human, embraced by the divine, finds itself within the womb of divinity. The Son calls to the Father, who, embracing his Son, suffers in Spirit what the Son suffers in the flesh, as the Son finds himself, and his human finitude, in the womb of the Father.

The double-womb-ing in the singular moment on Calvary points to the unexpected unities of Christ and the Trinity. The Incarnation comes crashing into history, into language and culture completely unprepared to receive it. We come to know it not by accounts of virgin birth or a ministry of wondrous deeds, but through the experience of the Passion-Resurrection, which alone issues the Gospel. From the side of the crucified Christ flows what the Tradition has named the hypostatic union, where the chiasm of the divine and human enter knowledge through a placental engagement of the womb of God and the flesh of the human. From the experience of the risen Christ flows the stirrings of the inner life of God, which the Tradition calls Trinity. The womb of the Father generates the Son, and delivers him to union with human flesh through the Spirit within the womb of the Theotokos: a 'trinity' of womb-ings.

The phenomenality of the Resurrection provides the point of departure between faith and nonsense. New Testament Greek cannot contain this phenomenon, neither can any language alone. The best it can do places the person of Jesus in a room with locked doors, describes an empty tomb, and dismisses visions of women as nonsense. The Resurrection is Christianity's greatest embarrassment, heightened by the further embarrassments of a God-Man and a triune God.

Yet what shall our response be to all this embarrassment? Why do we continue to inherit this Tradition, all this 'jewgreek', as Joyce and John Caputo might say? Even for the first witnesses to the Resurrection, the initial response was incredulity, so much nonsense. The very uncontainability of the experience gave way to the givenness of something new, something unexpected, something unforeseeable. All its saturating phenomenality haunts us, calls us, insists unconditionally but with no force but a weak force, an overwhelming unconditionality of the faintest whispers perhaps emanating from the womb of God, swerving in a placental turn.

Christianity embraces the birth of finitude, the realism of the body, the suffering and redemption of the flesh. Every Easter marks the active inheritance of a Tradition of life and a faith in the impossible. The paradox of Christianity reflects the paradox of the Cross and the saturated phenomenon of revelation. What do we do when we love God? With prayer and praise, tradition and Tradition, we respond to the call: hineni, Viens, Oui, Oui.

Bona Pasqua.

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