The Kiss of the Lonely God
and the Lonely Man
by The Reverend Noel E. Bordador
the beginning was the Word,
the Word was with God,
the Word was God…
and the Word became flesh
and dwelt among us.
- Prologue of the Gospel of John
God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I'll make me a world…
- James Weldon Johnson, excerpt from his poem, The Creation
Holy Trinity bent down to the creation of all things
and created us body and soul in infinite love.
- Mecthild of Magdeburg, The Flowing Light of the Godhead
This year, in many protestant and catholic traditions, March 1st is the beginning of the holy season of Lent, a forty-day preparation for Good Friday and Easter. Yet, in the midst of this season, our eyes are momentarily taken off Calvary back to the Christmas Crib of Bethlehem. In the midst of the rather restrained, arid and austere season of Lent, in the Anglican tradition (as in many other Christian traditions), we celebrate on March 25 what we call the feast of the “Annunciation of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary.” It is the feast commemorating the event in which the Archangel Gabriel appeared before Mary of Nazareth, announcing that she would conceive in her womb none other than God himself. So the feast itself is about the conception of the Lord, the incarnation of God in the human flesh in the womb of a poor woman. Why, you might ask, do we celebrate this on March 25? Well, if the celebration of our Lord’s birth is observed on December 25, then nine months before that is March 25. The logic, of course, is that a human being (and our Lord is human!) is born the ninth month after conception. March 25 is about the event that celebrates the coming of God in human history, in human flesh. The question for us: why would God come to us in the first place? Let me offer the following reflections.
One day a few years ago, as a seminarian teaching a catechism class to a group of young children at a church in the South Bronx, a child asked why God made us. Another child, Amanda, raised her hand as if she just quite knew the answer to this great mystery. Amanda said, “I know”, she proudly said, “I know.” “God was lonely! God was lonely!” God created us because God was lonely. Seven hundred years ago, the Benedictine nun, poet and mystic, Mechtild of Magdeburg, said the same thing. She had a vision of a lonely God who, out of his loneliness, created humanity. Out of loneliness, God entered into a loving relationship with humanity. In creating the world, in creating us, God ended his own isolation and loneliness. In the words of John Dourley, Mechthild said that God desired “to create the human in order to complete [himself] through a [relationship] with creatures, and in so doing to break the sterility of [God’s] previous splendid isolation…sundering the unfruitful self-sufficiency of [God’s] life.”1 It is a most unorthodox vision, but one, I think, which tells us something about this God. God is lonely for us in as much as we are lonely for God. God is one who has always been and is foolishly in love with us. And even though God is complete in himself for he needs no thing or no one, YET, he acts as if he is incomplete without us. It is as if God cannot live without us even as we ourselves cannot live without him. As Mechthild said, “God has enough of everything, caressing human souls is the only thing he cannot get enough of.”2 God has no need of anything; yet, as Mechthild said, God might not need anything, but God can never have enough contact with human souls. Our God is a God lonely for us. Our God is a God who seems at a loss without us. Our God seems to be a God who is not complete without us.
But God is not the only one who is lonely. We, too, are lonely creatures. At the very core of our human nature are our need to love with great passion, and our need to be loved unconditionally. Our happiness, it seems, depends on loving and being loved. And so, we go on longing, hungering, thirsting and searching for the source of this happiness, the object of love that will satisfy this need. Mystics have long since claimed that this innate drive to search for a fulfilling love ultimately is a gift from God. God has inflicted upon us a certain “divine discontent” as Saint Augustine of North Africa (Hippo) puts it, making our hearts “inquietum”, restless; at the heart of our being is a restlessness that refuses to be tamed, comforted and satisfied by no thing or no other object of love except God himself. And these, our deep restless desires remind us of a vast separation between God and us. In the words of a contemporary Sufi, our desires and loneliness bring us “sorrow” of our “eviction from the paradise of oneness” with God. Our restless longings, our unfulfilled desires, our loneliness, or that sense of emptiness that we feel in our life, even if we are in the midst of a community, or in relationship with others, all these things- painful as they are sometimes- they are, nevertheless, sacramental, because they can lead us back to God.
If there is anything about the feasts of the Annunciation and Christmas, it is about this: it is about the fulfillment of human and divine longing for one another. These feasts are about God who refuses to have a lonely existence without us. And these feasts are also about God who refuses to abandon us to our loneliness. In the conception and birth of our Lord Jesus, God shows himself as one who fulfills the human longing for a connection and for love. These feasts say that God and humanity are meant to be one with another. The Anglican theologian, Reginald Fuller, once said that we cannot speak of God except as God who is pro nobis, God who is for us; and we cannot speak of humanity apart from God. God and humanity are meant to live with one another forever. And we see this revealed in the Child conceived and born for us; this Child who is the very visible embodiment of perfect community between God and humanity. In that Child, the lovers- God and humanity- the lovers have found themselves again in an inseparable embrace and kiss of everlasting communion and connection.
Our identity as Christians, as a Church, as a religious community is no less bound to this idea of community, deep connection and love. If the Church is the corpus Christi, Christ’s Body on earth, then we must continue and extend to all that human and divine communion that is revealed to us in the incarnation. We, the Church, we as a religious community, we are all in the business of making connections, of nurturing relationships and building communities in this world full of people who have lost their way to God but struggling to connect with God, people who are lonely for deep and authentic intimacy with others, people who are looking for connection and community where they will find a welcome just for who they are. My deepest prayer, my best hope for all of us on this feast of the Annunciation of our Lord is this: that in us, through us, may the lonely world experience a deep connection with God, the one and only God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit who is lonely for his world. Amen.
1. John Dourley, quoted from M. Schmitt’s and Linda Kulzer’s (eds.) Medieval Women Monastics: Wisdom’s Wellsprings (1996), Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 226.
2. F. Tobin, translator, Mechthild of Magdeburg: The Flowing Light of the Godhead (1998). New York: Paulist Press, 153.
2006 Noel E. Bordador
Noel Bordador is a gay Filipino priest in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
Detail of the "Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo. Sistine Chapel, Rome
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