Other incarnations, of course
Other incarnations, of course, consonant with the environment he finds himself in, animating the cells, sharpening the antannae, becoming as they are that they, in the transparency of their shadows, in the filament of their calculations, may, in theor own way, learn to confront the intellect with its issue. And his coming testified to not by one star arrested temporarily over a Judaic manger, but by constellations innumerable as dew upon surfaces he has passed over time and again, taking to himself the first-born of the imagination but without the age-old requirement of blood.
To read this poem on Christmas Day is, in part, to think of the poet as heretic! There is only One Incarnation – the Word made Flesh, whose coming into the world we celebrate today. But as C451 pointed out yesterday, poetry can take us places where prose cannot. If we read this difficult poem in that light, it reveals some familiar Thomas themes – most notably the idea that God is in everything. If we read “incarnations” as “epiphanies” or “presence” we veer away from heresy into poetry – and that theme we have seen so often – that if we can but still our intellect, then we can find evidences of God’s presence everywhere.
In place of the morphemes and phonemes which are the building blocks of words, here we encounter God in the buolding blocks of things – in cells, in shadows in filaments. God adapts himself to whatever environment he is in. So, yes, that star over the manger in Bethlehem, but also in “constellations innumerable” where he has been, is, and will be. Born not, as the ancient Israelites imagined, of the blood of Jacob and David, but of our “imagination”. Again, read literally, there is a skirting with heresy. Is he saying we imagine God? In one sense yes, but not in the literal sense.
We encounter him in the crib, in the Magi moving towards it, in the shepherds, in Mary’s song of praises, the Magnificat. The Light came into the world and the darkness did not overcome him. Indeed, far from it, the Light is the light by which we see all things and are, in turn seen, therefore it follows that if we let ourselves, we can see him in everything. God is Ineffable, unknowable as he is, but discernable in all things if – another familiar theme – we would stop, wait, and take in this world he has created.
May you all have a happy and holy Christmas!
There is an #adventbookclub using “Frequencies of God” by Carys Walsh and you can support the publisher by buying it here: https://canterburypress.hymnsam.co.uk/books/9781786220882/frequencies-of-god. We’ll be running this club on Twitter and Facebook, and you are welcome to join in with thoughts and comments. Other folk doing this are https://grahart.wordpress.com/ and https://becausegodislove.wordpress.com/ so please pop over and read their thoughts too!