“Your mind must be the same as Christ’s. Though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God as something to be clung to. Instead he emptied himself, and became like a slave, and was born in the likeness of humanity…obediently accepting even death.” —Philippians 2:5–7
The hymn from Philippians artistically, honestly, but boldly describes that “secret hour” when God in Christ reversed the parabola, when the waxing became waning. It says it actually started with the great self-emptying or kenosis that we call the Incarnation in Bethlehem and ends with the Crucifixion in Jerusalem. It brilliantly connects the two mysteries as one movement, down, down, down into the enfleshment of creation, and then into humanity’s depths and sadness, and final identification with those at the very bottom (“took the form of a slave”) on the cross. Jesus represents God’s total solidarity with, and even love of, the human situation, as if to say “nothing human is abhorrent to me.” God, if Jesus is right, has chosen to descend—in almost total counterpoint with our humanity that is always trying to climb, achieve, perform, and prove itself. He invites us to reverse the process too. This hymn says that Jesus leaves the ascent to God, in God’s way, and in God’s time. What freedom! And it happens, better than any could have expected. “And because of this, God lifted him up, and gave him the name above all other names.” We call it resurrection or ascension. Jesus is set as the human blueprint, the standard in the sky, the oh-so-hopeful pattern of divine transformation. Who would have presumed that the way up could be the way down? It is, as Paul says, “the Secret Mystery.” Trust the down, and God will take care of the up. This leaves humanity in solidarity with the life cycle, but also with one another, with no need to create success stories for itself, or to create failure stories for others. Humanity in Jesus is free to be human and soulful instead of any false climbing into “Spirit.” This was supposed to change everything, and it still will.
“Lord Jesus, if you are indeed the Lord of History, then you are showing us the plan, direction, and meaning of the human journey. I want to speak like never before that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord.’ Now it is not an assertion of dominance or rightness over anybody else, but only a willingness to trust and follow your humble path.”
—from the book Wondrous Encounters: Scriptures for Lent
by Richard Rohr, OFM