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March 25, 2023

Embodiment in conscience

The Christian part of mankind celebrates the birth of the Son of God. Despite all the fairy-like pious Northern mythology (the congenial Mos Craciun is the Romanian version of the equally ingratiating Santa Claus, a magic St. Nicholas), or bazaar-based consumerist-festive (‘winter holidays’ are a huge marketing challenge) or sweetly-strident post-modern conformism (from carols competing with Oriental music to comedies depicting ‘magic’ romance on Christmas Eve) counterfeits, the embodiment of God continues to be a specificity of Christianity. The embodiment has covered the natural stages of human life: conception (miraculous), nine-month pregnancy, birth, infancy etc. It is interesting to note that the ‘Birth of Jesus’ is not among the most valued Christian holidays where the emphasis is laid on Easter, the Epiphany, and the Whitsunday, meaning the messianic vocation of salvaging and transforming man.

Apart from the circumstance-bound historical context (competition with various heathen celebrations), the instauration of the new holiday was also given the meaning of an accurate accent: Jesus, a man of Roman Judea, of the imperial epoch, was also God. Quite a scandalous thing for any religious conscience now and then, this fact uncovers an unexpected divine initiative: the opening of the space for an unusual spiritual intimacy, completely new compared to the various religious mysticisms. History, in the sense of concrete human lives, in their temporal passage and in their context, acquires a totally different aim. At a closer look, it becomes apparent in the very birth of Jesus Christ. Old Joseph, who, in the context of a very strict Judaic order, is assigned the task of a less average marriage to the very young Mary, finds out about her pregnancy. Knowing it for a fact that he couldn’t have fathered that child, he automatically suspects adultery. But, aware of the consequences (the most serious of which would have been the sure stoning of the ‘adulterous’ woman) and also ruffled by something he would have never thought possible, he does not rush to disclose the situation. It is in this interior torment (Orthodox icons even show him being tempted by the devil), eaten inside by doubt, hesitating between contradictory attitudes and responsible for any possible position, that this interior space of ‘intimacy’ with God opens up for him. God is present in consciences (a very simple truth Christians often tend to forget, charmed by ritual – canonical religiosity) and it is exactly in such ‘intricate’ (to speak euphemistically) situations which, in fact, denote the complexity of life and soul, that conscience is supposed to make important decisions. Joseph neither denounced the suspected ‘adulterine’, although he would have had a legitimate reason to do so (in a few years from then Jesus himself was to mention adultery as reason for divorce), nor shut his eyes (in a promiscuous ‘emphatic’ solidarity with the passions of youth). He did not take the risk of discussing it with close people fearing compromising rumours, did not shout at her, and did not hit her (the evangelic text does not specify the exact circumstances in which Joseph found out about the pregnancy nor do we know for a fact what the two of them said to each other on the subject). All we know is about Joseph’s inner ague (‘private’ according to Mathew’s report). That is the ague of any human being. The difference is made by the decision made, r, better said, by the series of decisions made. Joseph later on dreamt a very special dream putting facts into that divine ‘perspective’ for his conscience.

The remarkable thing about this seemingly common situation (suspected adultery in a much younger partner) is not that Joseph was ‘a good man’, who overcame a delicate crisis with ‘noblesse’ or with the superiority coming from unresentful benevolence, but simply that he didn’t know what to do in such a complex situation from a human point of view. It was such awareness of conscience that took him to the limit where he encountered God. This is the model of the ‘embodiment’ of Truth in our lives and consciences. This is the type of moral sensitivity that can engage in an ‘intimate’ dialogue with God. And the solution (which, in fact, is a way) to such a situation can only come from God. In other words, God can embody Himself in our conscience.

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