The Flame of the Incarnation

Fr George Congreve SSJE was a great spiritual writer. I hope my study of his thought and writings will appear next year. This is from an essay written in South Africa on The Incarnation of Our Lord.

By a Divine act God has raised creation up to a new relation to Himself for ever
It is not that the Christian poets have struck a new vein of joy in a higher and more hopeful way of looking upon nature and man's destiny, which is expressed in the story of Bethlehem: but that by a Divine act God has raised creation up to a new relation to Himself for ever. Fallen man had always an obscure fellowship with nature in sorrow and desire; but by the Incarnation their fellowship is advanced to the joy of an immeasurable hope, and of praise which cannot be expressed. For on a certain day the Eternal Son of God took His place in creation and became the Head over all things, in order to sum up the created universe in Himself, and present it to the Father, raised to the height of the Divine purpose, filled with seeds of the glory of God, and of all that lies hidden in his will: so that nothing in the universe is left so common as to be without some link to Christ on the throne of heaven: is not, "every bush aflame with God?" (1)

"Nothing in the universe is left so common as to be without some link to Christ on the throne of heaven"
Christ in Glory S Saviour in Chora, Istanbul

The flame of God's Presence
This flame is one which no poet or theologian can kindle; it is the Presence and operation of God Himself in the material world; the faculty of the Christian is to find it where others are unconscious of it. The Christian is the Seer, who has the evidence of things not seen, who discovers a relation to God in nature everywhere. The man of prayer tracks it furthest into the desolate places of everyday life, and manifests its power in spheres where it was not known before, or where everything seems to deny it. Moses saw the flame of the burning bush in the solitude of the desert, and worshipped; there are some today who seek for it and find it in the wilderness of the people, among the refuse of humanity in city slums. Have we not seen the spiritual light in the lepers' Chapel in faces that looked up to welcome Christ in their communion, or in the confirmation class, or in the Preachers' class in South Africa?

George Congreve, The Spiritual Order 1905:8, the Incarnation of Our Lord


(1) A slight misquote from Elisabeth Barrett Browining Aurora Leigh 

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware       65
More and more from the first similitude.

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