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Who God is and whom we are called to be

Sunday, 04 December 2011 00:00

This Sunday of Advent, we await anew Christ’s coming into the world and into our lives, but we also commemorate in a few days Mary’s Immaculate Concepcion. Allow me to share a few reflections on divine self-emptying love, manifested in the incarnation of Jesus Christ and responded to by Mary.

The Trinity. God's self-emptying love, while supremely revealed in the mystery of the incarnation constitutes the substance of God — who God is from all eternity—and the essence of God's salvific plan — what God has done and continues to do for us. From all eternity, Father, Son and Spirit give themselves totally to one another in what the Early Church Fathers call perichoresis, the mutual indwelling among the three divine persons, or what contemporary writers call the eternal divine dance. God is not a monad, perfection in isolation; rather, God is relational, perfectly self-emptying.


The Incarnation. God's self-emptying love is not locked within the Trinity, but overflows into creation and reaches its supreme manifestation in the Incarnation. Out of love for humanity, the Lord seeks us out, calls us to Himself, but not from a distance, not across the infinite abyss separating the divine and human, but as one among us. Infinite Mystery has made Itself knowable, visible and accessible — as approachable as could be in Jesus Christ, God among us, God with us.

Christ's incarnation discloses to us who this God we seek truly is — divine Self-emptying Love. From all eternity — the Trinity — to history—creation and the incarnation, God reveals to us that God is wholly Self-giving, sharing with us life and love, desiring to draw us into the divine eternal dance of mutual offering.

Mary. Mary's self-surrender to the invitation of the Lord to bear the Son of God is her reflection and reciprocation of God's self-gift to the world. Just as God gives Himself totally to us by embracing our human condition, Mary embodies our call to give ourselves in faith and love back to God.

According to biblical scholars, Mary must have been a young maiden of fourteen or fifteen years old when the angel Gabriel announced to her God's invitation for her to bear the Eternal Son. Though "blessed among all women", Mary was not spared from her share of trials, for she risked being disowned by her parents or being accused of adultery by Joseph.

Being betrothed to Joseph meant that Mary was already considered his wife, even though they lived separately and only after the marriage rites a year later would Joseph take her into their new home. Mary's impregnation before the marriage rite could have been interpreted as a sign of adultery, the punishment of which was stoning to death. Mary knew the life-threatening risks involved when she assented to become the mother of our Savior.

Mary's courage and faith in God is an inspiring example of human self-emptying to God, a beautiful acclamation to God's Self-gift to the world in the person of Jesus Christ.

Our vocation. If we have been created in the image of God, then our vocation is to become like God, to love like God, to empty ourselves out of love for God and for others. The process of humanization paradoxically entails the total giving of oneself to others. How starkly different from the ethos of human actualization that our consumerist and materialistic world proposes. We affirm the modern secular world's thrust of developing our potentials and honing our latent talents as integral to self-actualization, but question the modern world's ethos of accumulation of commodities and experiences, absorption of the world and creatures, amassment of wealth and recognition as paths towards self-realization.

This Advent Season, contemplating the eternal dance of the three divine persons giving themselves to one another in love provides us a vision of what we are called to be. Pondering the incarnation of Christ will hopefully ignite our desire to draw closer to our God who gives Himself so totally to us. Meditating on Mary's faith and life will hopefully inspire us to give ourselves also to God and to others, and paradoxically, in the process of self-emptying, find ourselves becoming fully human and fully alive.

Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ is a prolific composer of liturgical music and serves on the faculty of the Loyola School of Theology. For feedback on this column, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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