The beams of the Cross are the bones of the Incarnation…

Incarnation literally means embodied in flesh or taking on flesh (Wikipedia).

What is it we celebrate at Christmas? The birth of a baby, certainly, who grew to be the historical Jesus, the teacher. But incarnation?

Kathleen Raine’s poem ‘Northumbrian Sequence IV’ speaks of ‘Let[ting] in the nameless formless power… Let[ting] in the unpeopled skies…’ She goes on to ask, in the person of Mary, ‘Oh how can virgin fingers weave / A covering for the void, / How can my fearful heart conceive / Gigantic solitude?’

As Raine points out, letting in the power of God entails letting in all the love of God, all that God loves; the broken, the terrified, the pain and the uncanny bitter grieving of that which is, and is loved. The beams of the Cross are the bones of the Incarnation. It is on the Cross that that flesh is hung, as it will be hung some thirty years hence.

All prayer comes down to this. Truly to pray is to become a small incarnation; this is why it is so necessary to ‘pray without ceasing’, and why to pray is to take up the cross ourselves. Perhaps prayer is the central occupation of a human life, why we are here. Annie Dillard thought it was:

The silence is all there is. It is the alpha and the omega, it is God’s brooding over the face of the waters; it is the blinded note of the ten thousand things, the whine of wings. You take a step in the right direction to pray to this silence, and even to address the prayer to “World.” Distinctions blur. Quit your tents. Pray without ceasing.

(Teaching a Stone to Talk)

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